Battle of Waterberg
The Battle of Waterberg took place on August 11, 1904 in Waterberg
Waterberg can refer to two articles about an area in Namibia:* Waterberg Biosphere* Waterberg National Park...

, German South-West Africa
German South-West Africa
German South West Africa was a colony of Germany from 1884 until 1915, when it was taken over by South Africa and administered as South West Africa, finally becoming Namibia in 1990...

 (modern day Namibia
Namibia, officially the Republic of Namibia , is a country in southern Africa whose western border is the Atlantic Ocean. It shares land borders with Angola and Zambia to the north, Botswana to the east and South Africa to the south and east. It gained independence from South Africa on 21 March...

), and was the decisive battle in the German campaign against the Herero.

The armies

The German Imperial Forces were under the command of Lieutenant General
Lieutenant General
Lieutenant General is a military rank used in many countries. The rank traces its origins to the Middle Ages where the title of Lieutenant General was held by the second in command on the battlefield, who was normally subordinate to a Captain General....

 Lothar von Trotha
Lothar von Trotha
Adrian Dietrich Lothar von Trotha was a German military commander widely condemned for his conduct of the Herero Wars in South-West Africa, especially for the events that led to the near-extermination of the Herero....

 and numbered just over 1,500. They were armed with 1,625 modern rifle
A rifle is a firearm designed to be fired from the shoulder, with a barrel that has a helical groove or pattern of grooves cut into the barrel walls. The raised areas of the rifling are called "lands," which make contact with the projectile , imparting spin around an axis corresponding to the...

s, 30 artillery
Originally applied to any group of infantry primarily armed with projectile weapons, artillery has over time become limited in meaning to refer only to those engines of war that operate by projection of munitions far beyond the range of effect of personal weapons...

 pieces and 14 machine gun
Machine gun
A machine gun is a fully automatic mounted or portable firearm, usually designed to fire rounds in quick succession from an ammunition belt or large-capacity magazine, typically at a rate of several hundred rounds per minute....


The Herero were under the command of Samuel Maharero
Samuel Maharero
Samuel Maharero was a Paramount Chief of the Herero people in German South-West Africa during their revolts and in connection with the events surrounding the Herero genocide.- Life :...

 and - in expectation of peace negotiations - had assembled some 3,500-6,000 warriors along with their families. The total number of Hereros in the area is estimated at 25,000 to 50,000. Most of the Herero warriors were armed with rifles. The rest were armed with traditional close combat weapons called kirri.

Preparations for battle

From the opening of the Herero Revolt in January 1904 until June 11, 1904, the German military efforts had been directed by colonial Governor Colonel Theodor Leutwein. Leutwein combined a policy of military pressure with communication with the Herero to negotiate a settlement to the hostilities. The Germans achieved moderate military success in a series of skirmishes before cornering the Herero at the Waterberg Plateau. However, the Kaiserreich
Kaiserreich is the German term for a monarchical empire. Literally a Kaiser's Reich, an emperor's domain or realm. When the proper term is used without disambiguation, it is assumed in Germany to refer to the German Empire of 1871-1918, during which the large majority of historically-independent...

 replaced Leutwein with Lieutenant General Lothar von Trotha
Lothar von Trotha
Adrian Dietrich Lothar von Trotha was a German military commander widely condemned for his conduct of the Herero Wars in South-West Africa, especially for the events that led to the near-extermination of the Herero....

, expecting Trotha to end the revolt with a decisive military victory.

The Waterberg Plateau where the Herero concentrated lay 100 kilometers east the railhead source of German supplies, so Trotha spent nearly three months (June, July, and part of August) transporting troops and supplies by ox-drawn carts to the site of the expected battle. In the meantime, the Herero, estimated around 60,000 men, women, and children, with an equal number of cattle, drew on meager grass and water supplies while awaiting overtures from the Germans.


Execution of Trotha’s battle plan began on August 11, 1904. The German commander intended part of his force to squeeze the Herero south of the Plateau with columns from the east and west while two more columns would seal off the escape route to the south and southeast. The commander of the southeastern blocking column, however, failed to maneuver his troops into position in a timely fashion, nor communicate his tardiness to Trotha. Meanwhile, the western advancing column did not stop at the appointed line and pressed the Herero through the unclosed gap created by the failure of the southeastern troops. The bulk of the Herero and their cattle escaped eastward into the Omaheke desert.

Trotha and his staff were not prepared for the unexpected failure, and at the end of an attenuated supply line and occupying ground thoroughly foraged by the Herero, the Germans could not immediately pursue the Herero. While signaling to Berlin a complete victory and subsequent pursuit, Trotha began to move his force westward toward the railroad.
The Germans had won a tactical victory by driving the Herero from Waterberg, but had failed in their intentions to end the Herero Revolt with a decisive battle. Trotha soon thereafter ordered the pursuit of the Herero eastward into the desert, intending to prevent Herero reorganization by depriving them of pastureland and watering holes. This campaign caused most of the deaths of Herero people during the Revolt, and resulted in the notorious extermination order of October 2, 1904.

The aftermath

On the 2 October, von Trotha issued the infamous extermination order, declaring that "Any Herero found within the German borders with or without a gun, with or without cattle, will be shot".

While most Herero escaped the battle, their retreat led to the near-extinction of their people. Many of the refugee Hereros died of thirst and exhaustion during their trek through the desert. German patrols later found skeletons around holes 8-16 m (~25-50 ft) deep dug in a vain attempt to find water.

Samuel Maharero and about 1,000 of his men managed to cross the Kalahari into Bechuanaland. The British offered the Hereros asylum
A refugee is a person who outside her country of origin or habitual residence because she has suffered persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or because she is a member of a persecuted 'social group'. Such a person may be referred to as an 'asylum seeker' until...

under the condition not to continue the revolt on British soil.

The site of the battle is today located within Waterberg Plateau Park. A military graveyard exists below the rest camp where the German soldiers who perished in the Battle of Waterberg are buried.

External links

The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.