C Smuts and J L van Deventer: South African Commanders-in-Chief of a British Expeditionary Force

Ross Anderson


The campaign in East Africa that lasted from August 1914 to November 1918 was quite unlike those fought in Europe or the Middle East. Apart from the significant physical differences and the fact that British troops were usually in the minority, the East African Expeditionary Force had two South African officers as commanders-in-chief during the bulk of the active offensive operations. The first was Lieutenant General Jan Christiaan Smuts (February 1916 – January 1917), the noted politician, lawyer and thinker, while the second was Lieutenant General Sir Jacob (Jaap) Louis van Deventer (May 1917 - November 1918), an undeservedly forgotten. Although the two men had a long association in peace and war, their personalities, command style and ultimate achievements were very different. It is the aim of this article to examine the background to the war in East Africa, their tenure in the chief command, including the constraints under which they operated, and to assess their performance.


The campaign in East Africa; East African Expeditionary Force; Lieutenant General Jan C. Smuts; Lieutenant General Sir Jacob L. van Deventer; the war in East Africa; The coming of war to Africa; Initial British strategy and South African involvement

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.5787/31-2-156


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Copyright (c) 2018 Ross Anderson

ISSN 2224-0020 (online); ISSN 1022-8136 (print)

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