SOME OF THE PRISONERS HELD AT
SPECIAL CAMP 11
Although it is highly probable that Gutknecht was held at Island Farm, it is unconfirmed by any actual evidence. If anybody can substantiate this then I would be extremely grateful.
Generalmajor Alfred Gutknecht PW NO: 18867
DATE: 8 May 1945
PW NO: 18867
DATE OF BIRTH: 20 June 1888
PLACE OF BIRTH: Badingen / Kreis Stendal
DATE OF DEATH: 12 November 1946 (suicide)
PLACE OF DEATH: Berlin
OCCUPATION: Regular Soldier
NEXT OF KIN:
At the outbreak of World War I, then Leutnant Alfred Gutknecht was assigned to the Schutztruppe or Protection Troops in the German Colony of East Africa (present-day Tanzania). Commanded by Oberst (later Generalmajor) Paul von Lettow-Vorbeck, the East Africa Protection Troops consisted of about 3,000 German officers and non-commissioned officers and about 11,000 “Askaris,” or native African recruits serving in the German Army. Cut off from Germany once the war began, von Lettow-Vorbeck immediately went on the offensive by launching a series of raids into neighboring British East Africa (present-day Kenya) to sever the Uganda Railway. On 3 November 1914, the British attempted to land an invasion force of 8,000 Indian troops at Tanga Bay to seize the Germany colony, but von Lettow-Vorbeck’s forces immediately counterattacked and forced the British to withdraw two days later with very heavy casualties. Although the British did not invest much effort against the Germans over the next 18 months, von Lettow-Vorbeck continued to raid the neighboring British colonies of East Africa and Northern Rhodesia (present-day Zambia). His troops attacked numerous border posts, destroyed trains and ripped up miles of rail tracks.
In March 1916, South African Lieutenant-General Jan Christiaan Smuts planned to trap the Germans south of Mount Kilamanjaro by a dual advance from the east and west. Using the salvaged guns from the destroyed German light cruiser Königsberg and skillful maneuver, von Lettow-Vorbeck escaped General Smuts’ trap and fell back into the Pare Mountains. By May 1917, the Germans had been split into two forces, one group of about 1,000 troops under command of Hauptmann Theodor Tafel—including the recently promoted Hauptmann Alfred Gutknecht—based at Mahenge and the main body of about 5,000 troops commanded by von Lettow-Vorbeck based in the Matandu Valley. Cut off from the main body and relentlessly pursued by Allied forces, Hauptmann Tafel surrendered his group on 28 November 1917 near Newala.
Paul von Lettow-Vorbeck
Charles Miller described the last desperate days of Hauptmann Tafel’s command in his excellent book Battle for the Bundu: The First World War in East Africa:
"But a bad setback came on the heels of Ngomano, when von Lettow learned that he had lost Captain Tafel’s thousand-man detachment which had been relied on so heavily to augment the main striking force. A few days earlier, Tafel’s askaris had forced the Rovuma [River] after marching and fighting their way across two hundred miles of barren scrub. Their food supplies were exhausted, neither crops nor game could be found, ammunition was down to barely a dozen rounds per man, and there was no sign of von Lettow. With his troops on the point of death from starvation, Tafel recrossed the Rovuma and surrendered to the pursuing 129th [Duke of Connaught's Own] Baluchis.
It was unnecessary. On the south bank of the river, Tafel had been only a day’s march from von Lettow. But he did not know this. Von Lettow called the surrender “a severe and unexpected blow.”
Meanwhile, the Allies continued to attack von Lettow-Vorbeck from all quarters: the British advanced from Kenya and Northern Rhodesia, the Belgians attacked from the Congo (present-day Zaire), and the Portuguese advanced from Portuguese East Africa (present-day Mozambique). Having switched to purely guerrilla tactics, von Lettow-Vorbeck captured several Portuguese forts in Mozambique to obtain ammunition, food and supplies. In the fall of 1918, he left German East African territory and invaded British Northern Rhodesia where he captured Kasama on 13 November 1918. Generalmajor von Lettow-Vorbeck finally surrendered to the British in Northern Rhodesia at Abercorn (present-day Mbala) on 25 November 1918—14 after days after the Armistice was signed in Europe. His remaining force of 1,311 German and “Askari” troops and 1,598 native bearers were the last armed German soldiers to surrender in World War I. For more than four years the indomitable von Lettow-Vorbeck outfought and tied down over 300,000 Allied troops that were sorely needed on other fronts.
Born 21 May 1878 in Ravensburg, Theodor Tafel served in the German Army and Colonial Forces from 9 February 1898-31 March 1920. Commissioned a Leutnant in Infanterie-Regiment Kaiser Wilhelm, König von Preußen (2. Württembergisches) Nr. 120, Tafel served in the East Asia Expeditionary Corps from 1904-1907 and in the Schutztruppen in German East Africa from 1908 until released from captivity in 1919. Separating from the Army on 31 March 1920 with the rank of Major, he served for some time in the police before being recalled to military service early in World War II. Tafel commanded Infantry Regiment 435 of the 215th Infantry Division from September 1939-27 March 1942. During that time, he saw action during the invasion of France where, on 20 June 1940, his division helped breach the Maginot Line west of Weissenburg. After occupation duty in France, his division transferred to the Eastern Front in December 1941 as a component of Army Group North. On 2 April 1942, Oberst z.V. Tafel received the German Cross in Gold in recognition of his leadership of the regiment in Russia. From June 1942-31 August 1944, he served as Commandant of Stalag XX B (Stammlager für kriegsgefangene Mannschaften und Unteroffiziere - POW Camp for Enlisted Men and NCOs) at Marienburg and achieved the rank of Generalmajor z.V. on 1 August 1944 before being released from military service. Tafel died on 14 August 1963.
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