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7 Most Badass Soldiers in the East Africa Campaigns


This list doesn’t include any East Africans, just men who fought in East Africa during the World Wars. Isn’t there anyone in this region who was blessed with balls of wrought iron? 

#7 Fragetten Kapitan Max Looff

 Warhistory.com


Warhistory.com

There are two shipwrecks in the Rufiji River Delta in Tanzania. One is that of the Konigsberg while the other is that of its fuelling collier, the Somali. The Germans lost the two ships during the heat of World War I to a fleet of Royal Navy vessels. That’s the boring part of the story.

Fragetten Kapitan Max Looff, who had the most obnoxious surname ever, commanded the ship on several successful raids on British ships. When the light cruiser suffered engine failure, he steered it up the Rufiji Delta from where the damaged parts were transported via land to Dar es Salaam.

He managed to hide the ship for five weeks by camouflaging it and moving it to the upper reaches of the Delta. When it was finally discovered, the British blockaded the delta and began to launch attacks on the ship. The first attacks, using shitty seaplanes and tiny bombs, failed; the Royal Navy ships were too big to go close enough to the ship to make direct hits.

When his ship was finally hit in July 1915, Looff sent a signal to Berlin ‘Konigsberg is destroyed but not conquered.’ But that wasn’t the most poignant written communication Loof ever sent.

On New Year’s Eve the previous year, the Royal Navy Ship HMS Fox sent Loof this message: WE WISH YOU A HAPPY NEW YEAR AND HOPE TO SEE YOU SOON.

Looff, as aloof as a man with a name like that can be, replied: THANKS, SAME TO YOU, IF YOU WISH TO SEE ME, I AM ALWAYS HOME.” If that is not an invitation for a proper ass whoopin’ then I have been watching the wrong action movies. Loof managed to hold on until July that year and though they sank his ship in the end, they never caught him.

The Kognisberg wreck

The Kognisberg wreck

#5 Colonel Von Lettow-Vorbeck Tells Hitler to Fuck Off

He also win the prize hat editthis.info.com

He also win the prize hat
editthis.info.com

Whoever says badassery cannot be induced by naming your kids something badass is lying. Paul Emil von Lettow-Vorbeck, other than having a mouthful of a badass name, is recognized as the most badass German General to lead a military force during World War I. Free Advice: Call your child Lettow-Vorbeck and watch him become the king of recess. Please don’t quote me if he doesn’t.

When the war started, Lettow-Vorbeck was leading a small garrison of just a little over five thousand soldiers. He used the Konigsberg’s guns-after Loof’s ship was damaged-to shell the Allies in the East African land campaign. One of his victories was so embarrassing to the British that they kept it secret until 1966. He proved to be a hard man to pin down, employing the guerrilla warfare strategy, and managing to keep his troops motivated for four years.

 Two days after Germany lost the war, Vorbeck was still busy fighting –and winning territory-in the Congo. He did not even know that his side had lost the war until Hector Croad, a British Magistrate, brought him a letter informing him of the armistice.

He surrendered his undefeated army of about 1, 500 soldiers, and 3, 500 porters in Zambia on 25 November, a whole week and a half after Berlin had fallen. Vorbeck and the man he had been fighting for more than two years, General JC Smuts met in 1929 and became lifelong friends.

 Smuts organized a pension for Vorbeck from the same guys he had been shooting at and trying to kill him for four years. He needed the assistance because he had made terrible political decisions, one of them being more badass than anything he ever did in war.

In 1935, he declined a diplomatic position from Hitler by telling the mustachioed dictator to ‘Go fuck himself.’ Seriously. This was Hitler, the man who would enter the annals of history as a villain extraordinaire, and a mere man, a former soldier nonetheless, was telling him, in no less words, to shove it in his own fundamentals. If you were Hitler, you would kill Vorbeck wouldn’t you? But Vorbeck lived until 1963, almost three decades longer than the Furher. If having titanium ball doesn’t kill you, only old age can. Unless you are Nigel Gray Leakey…

#5 Nigel Gray Leakey; ‘I’ll Get them on Foot!”

You can't even get a photo of the man.  www.wikipedia.com

You can’t even get a photo of the man.
http://www.wikipedia.com

You don’t know Nigel Leakey, of course not. He is one of the many famous Leakeys and his story tends to fade in the famous family name. May 19 1941; Sergeant Leakey is stationed in the Ethiopian front when the Allied forces encounter strong Italian opposition.

Tired of just shooting around like a fool, and perhaps too eager to get home, Leakey jumped on top of an enemy tank, opened the turret, and killed everyone inside except the driver. Unless you know how to drive or fly the thing you are stealing, never kill the driver/pilot. It’s counterproductive. Leakey knew that, now you do too. Use this information wisely.

He forced the driver to steer the tank to cover from where he tried to fire the canons at the Italians. This failed and he dismounted, yelling to his disbelieving fellow soldiers ‘I’ll get them on foot.” Because badassery doesn’t need a tank, badassery is its own war machine.

He tried the stunt again, this time with three African soldiers. As a fleet of enemy tanks passed, he jumped on the third one and opened the turret. He only managed to shoot one person inside before the fourth tank shot him right off the tank. Italians were having none of his shit this time round. But they lost, and part of the credit for that victory is given to Sergeant Leakey. He was posthumously awarded a Victoria Cross, the highest award for gallantry in the face of the enemy among Commonwealth countries. It is only awarded to soldiers with titanium balls, and Nigel had grown his while growing up in Kiganjo.

#4 Private Seidu Issalia

This is exactly what it looks like.

This is exactly what it looks like.

If you think you know badassery but you do not know Private Seidu Issalia’s act of utter stupidity and bravery, then you need to suspend that until you are done reading this entry.

If you Google ‘Private Seidu Issalia’ one of the curious finds you will get is a Dictionary entry for ‘Definition of Groin’ because that’s Issalia’s most badass part. His fundamentals. No, he didn’t kill anyone with his wand, not that we know of anyway. Maybe the titanium alloy prosthetic he got did.

On January 4 1941, Private Issalia, a member of the Gold Coast Regiment fighting in the East African campaign, was sent as a runner by his platoon commander. He was shot through the groin; please take a moment to internalize that, on his way to HQ. As the sniper giggled at his villainous hit, Issalia refused to die.

He crawled, with a bullet in his groin, to command headquarters and did his duty. Badass, no? Now you like a coward for that time you cried when someone kicked you in the groins, right? Private Issalia is just about to multiply that…

He delivered his message and then crawled back, still with a bullet in his fundamentals, back to his platoon commander to confirm delivery of the message. He was one of the few African soldiers who were ever awarded for bravery during the campaign. There is no information as to whether he was reincarnated as the African Robocop with titanium balls and a diamond wand but if there is ever an alien attack, this is one the guys we should consider.

#3 Sergeant-Major Belo Akure

Nigerian Infantry in Tanzania  www.kaiserscross.com

Nigerian Infantry in Tanzania
http://www.kaiserscross.com

The story of West African troops who fought in the East African Campaign has generally been downplayed and hardly registers a mention in Kenyan history books. Yet when you look at the number of military medals the Brigades amassed you can tell there are numerous stories of badassery and unfulfilled death wishes hidden there. One of them is that of Sergeant-Major Belo Akure.

When an experienced officer, a British one during a time of blatant racial stratification no less, writes of you ‘I have never seen a braver man’ then you must be at the highest attainable level of badassery.

By the end of the war he had amassed three medals: the coveted Military Medal, a clasp, and the Distinguished Conduct in the field medal. The first medal was for a time when he saved eight of his colleagues from sure death. As they retreated from a tactical mistake, the company came under fire. Since they could not all fit in the canoe, Akure was left behind, lying down on the riverbank returning to god-knows-how-many German shooters. He was hit in the sleeve and died. Actually no he wasn’t.

He continued shooting until his company got on the other side, and then he swam across to safety.

In East Africa, Belo captured a middle-level German Officer ‘in spite of a spirited rescue effort’ by the German forces. Here’s how it was described “He left his place of safety and went out to the German who was lying on the ground. History does not relate what he said to the wretched man, but badly wounded as he was, he (the German) got up and followed the sergeant-major to a place of safety.” He probably just told him his name. 

#2 Eric Charles Twelves Wilson

Now you know where Van Damme got the concept for the split...

Now you know where Van Damme got the concept for the split…

Wilson revenged for being given the weirdest set of names by showing such conspicuous gallantry in Somaliland that no one thought he had survived. But he had.

It all began when Italian forces attacked a machine-gun post aptly called Observation Hill. Captain Wilson, in charge of a badass team of Somali gunners, led a successful counter-attack and started helping another nearby post beat off the attackers.

He was so successful that the Italians switched their energies to finishing him off completely. They scored two direct hits on his defenses, one of which wounded Captain Wilson in the right shoulder and the left eye, and shattered his spectacles. His guns were blown off their stand but he repaired them and replaced them, with a useless eye and a useless hand, and promptly went back to the fight. From August 12 to August 14, he manned his guns with one hand and one weak eye, the wounds unattended. He contracted malaria on the 13th, because the Grim Reaper was running out of ideas.

 He kept the post in action until 5pm 15 August, his wounds unattended, and his malaria untreated, when the post was finally overran, and he was killed. At least that is how the original gazette notice for his VC reads.

Wilson actually survived the slaughter and wandered off until the Italians captured him. They took him to hospital and then spirited him off to a POW camp in Eritrea where he first learnt of his posthumous VC months later.

When the camp was overrun by the British, Wilson was rescued and given the VC he had been awarded when everyone thought he was dead. He was then deployed to Burma where he was struck by scrub typhus. He was then moved to an infantry-training center in Uganda. The Grim Reaper quit after this and just let old age do its magic.

#1 Premindra Singh Bhagat

Is that a smack, Singh?

Is that a smack, Singh?

The most badass man on this list is Premindra Singh Bhagat! That his exploits did not kill him means death respected him enough to let his nongiveafuckery prolong his life. Here’s what Singh Bhagat did.

Over the course of his training, his company commander frequently complained about Bhagat’s ‘high opinion of himself.” When he was leaving the training camp, his company commander, MacLaughin, said “That chap. He’s off to the wars. You mark my words. He will either get shot or get a VC.” He did the latter.

He was deployed to Sudan where his acts of total-complete-one-hundred-percent-nongiveafuckery happened. On 6 November 1940, Bhagat’s company was tasked with road denial, a sabotage strategy by a retreating army to slow down the pursuing army. They rigged up two derelict tanks with explosives and then jammed them into a culvert. When the charges were fired, one jammed and the culvert held. Well, until Prem dashed from cover and into the tank, under a hail of bullets. He adjusted the charges and then ran back out. The tank exploded. Badass, no? Men like Bhagat are never satisfied with such pussy acts as simply running into a tank filled with explosives.

In January 1942, Bhagat was commanding a column of Royal Frontier Force Rifles during the Battle of Keren. As part of the recce party, Bhagat and his men had to drive out in front of the platoons. The road was heavily mined and the carrier he was in blew up. Everyone escaped unhurt, but Bhagat was not having that kind of uncertainty again. As the column progressed, the carrier drove over another mine and the driver and the sapper died.

Bhagat, after flipping at the Grim Reaper, promptly moved to another carrier and this is where the shit goes from badass to “is this man even human?” Every time the column encountered a mine, Bhagat would alight from the carrier and defuse the mine with his bare hands. For four days!

 For four long days, this man worked with no rest or food, like a mine-defusing, death defying, Grim-Reaper-Immune machine. His carrier was blown up a third time on February 2 and Prem’s eardrums, tired of being part of a man with no value for his life, simply punctured.

For a whole day, this guy refused to be pulled away from the war front, arguing with his company commander that he was the most experienced among all mine-defusers. He probably couldn’t hear what his senior was saying so it’s possible he let his exploits speak for him.

After working almost non-stop for 96 hours, clearing 15 mine fields over 55 miles and with blood oozing from his ears, Bhagat accepted to be evacuated. He was awarded the VC for “the longest recorded feat of sheer cold courage.”

—– Richhpal Ram

Shove over Looff, Ram takes the prize for head gear!

Shove over Looff, Ram takes the prize for head gear!

Now, there are badass men who don’t care much for their lives and then there’s Ricchpal Ram. When a guy’s second name is a verb that implies force and violence, you know he is the real deal.

Ram was awarded the Victoria Cross posthumously for, as the highest award among Commonwealth Forces is described ‘gallantry in the face of the enemy.’

According to this Gazette notice, Ram and his 6th Rajputana Rifles were fighting in Eritrea when this happened “…his personal example inspired his company with his resolute spirit until his right foot was blown off. He then suffered further wounds from which he later died. While lying wounded, he continued to wave his men on, and his final words were “We’ll capture the objective.”

Owaahh © 2013

 
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Posted by on December 12, 2013 in Badassery, Lists, Pages from the Past

 

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Disaster? Cue the Looting, This is Kenya


When I saw images of Abdul Hajj, I automatically knew he was not a Kenyan cop. There was something about him that told of affluence, a man who gyms in a proper facility and eats well. Later, I bounced on an image of the cop (the unlucky thief) currently being prosecuted for looting from the dead at Westgate. It is because we pay our police so badly, I thought to myself in a moment of temporary insanity. Then, when we all knew that KDF had almost exclusive access to the mall for days, stories of looting reappeared. This time, the possible looters were not poorly paid officers but elite forces that are among the best paid employees in the country. So I hang my head in shame and sighed. We are doomed.

It is not as much as what was stolen but by whom. The police, underpaid and neglected, have a ‘social license’ similar to that we give politicians who bribe us for our votes. We think it is an abhorrence, but we have learnt to live with it. If you commit a traffic offence, for example, and are arrested, anyone will tell you not to open your wallet in the arresting officer’s field of vision. One lady did exactly that and the officer snatched the bundle of brown notes, totaling 5,ooo bob, and let her free. And so it goes.

We have so institutionalized looting that we see nothing new about it. That’s why my sentiments on Westgate looting point towards the underlying and nagging idea that with exclusive access, the military officers might have hauled away luxury watches and other valuables. Our astute forces, well paid, and provided for as much as they would want, most of it untaxed and exclusive, might have conducted one of the most blatant thefts in the history of our society. It is too soon to claim the end of the AFCO tax breaks triggered the looting, so, why would those we pay well enough to do violence on our behalf steal from us like those from whom we expect similar services but pay poorly? Does it even have anything to do with the salary and allowances or is it deeper, engrained in our hastily clobbered national genotype?

In Its Our Turn to Eat, the case is made through the Anglo leasing story that being in a position of power in Kenya is chance to loot. If you don’t do it, someone else will, goes the story. We tend to associate politicians with five year mandates with this social license to raid public coffers and behave plainly like assholes in their interactions with us common folk. We allow that, because they are elected or nominated, and are thus in a God-given electorate-legitimized position to thief for themselves and their ilk. Maybe some crumbs will fall our way, we think.

It does little to our collective national psyche and legendary apathy, and will probably be forgotten in no time, but it raises questions of a deep moral angling. Is it that we have become so used to looting, whether as participants or victims, that we can only be shocked now if it is done by those we thought above such a trivial offence? Didn’t the crowd that had to be repulsed using teargas want to access the mall even before it was secured? They had an epiphany of what the disciplined forces, bar none, would do when left alone in a upper class mall where all hell had broken lose? It seems they did.

Almost all disasters are followed by looting of some degree, so much so that one academic called it the ‘cliché of disaster journalism.’ In most cases, it is simple citizens first looting for basic stuff such as food and water (before eventually hauling luxury items, going up the Maslow pyramid) but in Kenya, the protectors are quite adept at it. Instead of appearing as astute members of the disciplined forces, as perhaps we all think of military officers, policemen tend to appear as low socio-economic players.

It happened before at JKIA and has probably happened many times prior. It is just that now that we all have and want good stuff, we are talking about it. Living in a consumerist society, you want to know that at least your valuables will outlive you, and go into your estate should you die during a terrorist siege or a traffic accident. But that comfort, friend, is denied. We will loot. We will loot from you everything on your corpse before your soul reaches the roof. Hell, if you are not dead enough to let go of your iPhone, we will help you either journey yonder or wait like vultures, until your lungs heave that last one, and away we go with all your bling and cash. Maybe your family will get your wallet. Such is not assured.

What ails our national morality then? In the cliché mentioned prior, most cases tend to be instances of horrific disasters such as Hurricanes and earthquakes. There is a desperate need to get basic utilities and, for those whose inner animal has an automatic switch, acquire nice things. Yet there is hardly ever looting in Japan.

It became a phenomenon after the earthquake and Fukushima nuclear reactor aftermath. The Japanese do not loot, and if they do, not at the scale seen in other scenes globally, even in richer societies. In most discussions of this phenomenon, most contributors argue that the Japanese culture of shame, community, and respect, has something to do with it. The consumerist culture has not managed to kill of this national conscience, and the deep respect for one another stretches to a moment of desperation. Where other countries take years to recover from a disaster, Japan’s system is efficient because it is built on a system of restraint, if not trust.

One can imagine the temptation, the fact that you are standing in front of a shop with things you have only seen on displays. There is no one to catch you, or a bigger crime (than the one you are about to commit) is being committed. Who will worry about the dead man’s phone anyway? Or how much cash he had on his person when the hooded terrorist shot him point blank? The dead do not need the money, their dependents are probably rich enough to survive without it, you think. But you do. Who will ever catch you anyway? If the police do, you will only have to forfeit a portion of it and voila, the handcuffs of justice will magically disappear. Hell, you will even get an armed escort home that day. Such is. Such is.

Our culture of looting and plundering is not epitomized by Westgate but by our reaction to it. It is the deeper sense of apathy where we figure most of the shops were insured and thus, it does not matter that their valuables were lost in a crime scene. A crime scene with layer upon layer of cordons, and a retinue of our protectors. Our protectors got rich that day, maybe they will not be too hungry when they arrest us tomorrow.

But looting feeds avarice, another of our national treasures, which in turn breeds the kind of hunger that addicts of morphine get on subsequent doses. That is why majority of the onlookers at Kenyan crime scenes are there. It is not to ask after the dead and injured but to await the slightest opportunity to carry a trophy. Drive on any road and if you come upon an accident, study closely how first responders pocket valuables while pulling people from the wreckage. Such is.

There is an actual criteria for when looting is morally permissible. In such cases as where there is actual desperation. The argument there is that in an interdependent society such as ours, everybody plays a part, however minute, to the production in and progress of society. This position thus means that in case a fair exchange of goods is not possible because of the circumstances, such as breakdown of social order after a disaster, then one is in his human right to seek basic needs from those who have. It would be, another argues, selfish of us as human beings to judge those desperately seeking to survive. Our very existence as a species would be at risk.

But there was no breakdown of social order per se at Westgate or JKIA. There was perhaps, too much order. Normal ad hoc looters do not come carrying grenades and other explosives to open safes and access ATMs. Neither do they, at least the first wave, go after the cash registers and other movable currencies. Yet that is exactly what happened at Westgate, and before at JKIA (there were no explosives here though). Systematically, responders took time off their busy schedule of protecting us to help themselves to items on the aisles and the mannequins. The clinical organization meant that even shop owners who had luckily managed to lock up their shops still suffered the same fate as those who left them wide open.

Those looting were not poor and desperate, as we would be if, say, a Hurricane were to miraculously hit Nairobi. They were in no danger of imminent hunger if they did not wear the gold chains and watches from the shops. In fact, brave Kenyans filled their cars and set camp to feed responders. There was more food where that came from, that’s for sure. All, except maybe the community policing units, receive a constant monthly salary and allowances that was still assured when and if they survived their mission there. There was no social order to warrant breaking into ATMs, or even justify it. Yet the hapless gaffe-prone Interior Cabinet Secretary will proudly downplay the significance of the crime by saying only ‘two or three shops were looted.’

In this god forsaken land we were born in, numbers shock us but hardly ever enough to make an actual difference. 1, 100 people died during the 2007/8 massacres. 40 officers died in Baragoi. Over 100 civilians died in Tana River. Another 40 died in a single bus accident. More die each day. The death toll in the Northern Frontier is so high that it does not make headline news anymore. Wajir was bombed the day after Westgate was (sic!) retaken (and bombed, for some reason). Isn’t it ironical that we should derive a lesson as ‘the death of one is a tragedy, the death of a million is a statistic’ from a diabolical dictator who massacred his people with the gun and famine? Shouldn’t it embarrass our very core as an ‘inter-religious’ but constitutionally secular (ignore the allusions of faith) in the Preamble country?

A US official recently told Museveni that his military officers are ‘good soldiers but thieves.’ Then reports appeared pointing towards Kenya’s complicity in the charcoal trade in Kismayu, the very jewel we won from its murderous rulers just last year. Do you know what that would mean if it is true that our military has been facilitating illegal business in Somalia? That we actually funded the Westgate 5 (or 15 or 20, no one seems to know how many hostiles held us in panic for over 72 hours) and all that they did. We rubber-stamped our own death by spreading the tentacles of our selfish ambition to enrich ourselves at whatever cost. Sealed our fate so our wallets could be heavier. The children will never know their education was funded with blood money. The wives will never know the red on the flower petals is blood from victims of our greed. Even if they do, they will not care much. It was not anyone they knew, they will argue, and if we had not done it, the next person would have. So why not us? Also, we prayed for forgiveness and filled the offertory.

Some might argue that from a Hobbesian perspective, looting is a way through which those who-have-not seek to bridge the class gap with those who have-yachts. But the injured driver who loses his valuables to his helpers is a man hustling as any other. Start a fire in a slum and see whether the looting of other residents has anything to do with class warfare. It is pure human greed, nothing else.

The ethics of looting depend on the facts of the subject. After 9/11, for example, firemen took water from nearby stores to rinse their eyes. When a hungry man steals from a store, then there is a moral case to let that man eat; and to make sure that he has a living so he does not have to break social norms again. In the Argentina food riots of 1989, poor women walked into stores and stole food and other basic supplies. There were no cases of looting of non-essentials and the cash registers until later when other mobs followed. But Kenya’s two recent cases are interesting and disturbing.

The looters are not desperate hungry mobs, at least not in an ad hoc sense of the word. They are organized units with a clear mandate and training to handle emergencies. Their very job description is built on the fact that their role in society is sacred. The salaries are low, the hours depressing, the populace thankless (unless it is in one of those rare occasions of national reflection), and all but hope is lost. That is still no defense for such an abhorring crime as grave robbing.

So, Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? Since it is their work to do that to us, to hurl us in jail if we (are caught) loot, to protect us from external threats by doing violence on our behalf, who will do it to them? In the next disaster, as one surely will come, are we to helplessly stand by as our businesses are ransacked simply because these are ‘the untouchables.’ One of the victims succinctly saidThis is Kenya. Let’s just face it, what’s lost is lost.”

It is plunder, mate, and these are times of war and uncertainty. Accept and move on. In fact, grab something from that glass window or aisle and move on with it. 

Edit, 2nd October 2013 1710hrs

Prompted by panoramicdon’s comment below, I remembered that indeed the TJRC report is teeming with testimonies of looting by our ‘esteemed’ forces. A cursory reading of the relevant volumes points towards a tradition of looting as a military strategy, a strategy of yore, the medieval days of pirates and plunder. Even sadder, looting is connected to other crimes such as rape and murder. But no commissions, if any, have ever been formed to investigate the suffering the NEP and Mt. Elgon residents went through. We are an unequal society, dear reader, and you are not invited to the looting.

 

 

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