The career of Jan Smuts is one of the most remarkable military and political stories of the 20th century. A gifted guerilla commander against the British in the Boer War by 1914 Smuts was happy to stand with the British as head of a large army fighting to conquer German East Africa (today’s Tanzania). Sadly the campaign was not one of his finest hours. Both the text of this book and Smuts’ own somewhat defensive introduction gives a good idea of why the resourceful German commander Paul von Lettow-Vorbeck was able to run rings round the superior allied forces trying to trap him. Lettow and his staff and their small army of trained native Africans the 'Askaris’ knew the lie of the land and were able to live off it. The allied frustration as they repeatedly tracked and attacked him only to find Lettow melting away to fight another day is palpable. Evcentually the allies at enormous cost succeeded in conquering the territory and forcing Lettow into neighbouring areas but the 1918 Armistice found him still at liberty and with his force intact. By then Smuts had long departed. It is pleasant to record that Smuts ended his career as a valued member of Churchill’s War Cabinet and South African Prime Minister and that in the hungry months for Germany that followed the Second World War he was able to supply his old opponent Lettow with food parcels. Illustrated with a photograph of Smuts and four maps.
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