Ogaden History in the Jubbas

October 17, 2012 by · Leave a Comment
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Postby Shift »  October 17, 2012 10:23 pm

Major F Wallace Blake, gentleman, trooper CMR,
colonial administrator & prison governor 1864- c1928.
By Keith Steward FRGS

Major Frederick Wallace Hastings Blake (usually known as Wallace
Blake) had a varied career in British Colonial Africa and the military and
civil prison service. He rose to some prominence as the man on the spot
that replaced Sub Commissioner Jenner 1 after his murder by Ogaden
Somalis on November 16th 1900.

January 18th 1898 as Assistant Collector at the salary of £250 per annum.
7 He arrived in Mombasa on March 16th and accompanied the Sub
Commissioner Mr Arthur Jenner in many of his dealings with the Ogaden
Somali’s. The Ogaden had been killing people (albeit in fairly small
numbers) and were being generally uncooperative with the new
administration. They had also been slow in paying fines of cattle levied
against them for these misdemeanours. A ‘showri’ (sic) was organised:

At 4 p.m. on the 25th August, the sultan and all his chiefs accompanied by about 350
men, came to the camp with the fine of cattle. They drew up outside the boma and Mr
Jenner accompanied by his assistant Mr Blake met them. 8
The Ogadens brought in four more rifles captured by them on June 22nd
making a total of eight returned to date. Mr Jenner was satisfied and
informed the military commander that he was satisfied with the Ogadens
compliance and they could take the captured cattle back to their homes.

Wallace Blake was mentioned in Mr Jenner’s despatches to Sir Arthur
Hardinge when reporting on the Ogaden rebellion of 7th November 1898.
13 This particular episode of disruption started on March 22nd when
Ogaden warriors murdered three Arabs in protest against slave trading
restrictions. In reprisal, twenty-six cattle belonging to the incriminated
tribe were seized by the administration. Later the Ogadens killed several
African Police constables.

In November 1898 Wallace Blake was moved as Assistant Collector to
Kismayu in the north of the territory. He took six months home leave from
27th October 1899 until 3rd April 1900. On May 4th 1900, Blake was
appointed Assistant Collector at Lamu before returning to Kismayu in
October 1900.
At 4 o clock in the morning on the 16th I saw a lot of Ogadens rush into Mr Jenners
camp; many men seized me and held me, and I saw the tents of Mr Jenner come
down. 19
A policeman, Yusef Galeid tells how Omar Magan spied on the camp on
several occasions was allowed by Jenner to fire his own gun. ‘ He was no
doubt spying, and gave the news of the weakness of the escort to the
Ogadens’ 20 Hassan Koshin, a goat driver provided the following
testimony:

When Mr Jenner saw his men being attacked, he tried personally, unarmed as he
was, to assist them; he kicked one man and threw himself on another, bearing him to
the ground. Then all the Somalis rushed him and stabbed him to death. I saw Mr
Jenner’s dead body. I saw them carry his head-it was stuck on a knife; they then tied it
to a rope and carried it about all day.

Wallace Blake despatched dhows down the coast to Lamu, which had
telephone and telegraphic communications with Zanzibar. He requested a
ship and the necessary troops to protect the town as Kismayu had only a
half company of Uganda Rifles for its defence.

Mr Blake, the Acting Sub Commissioner of Jubaland had strengthened the place by
putting up a barbed wire fence and taken various military precautions against a
possible attack by the Ogadens.’ 24
Colonel Ternan also wrote to the Marquis of Lansdowne with details of
his proposals for retribution:
A punitive force known as the ‘Ogaden Punitive Force 1900’, will be formed at
Kismayu. The following appointments are made: Lieut. Colonel GP Hatch CMG 25
commanding the East Africa Rifles will command the troops. The Intelligence Officer
will be Mr Blake, Acting Sub Commissioner Jubaland Province. Mr Blake is also
appointed to administer the estate of the late Mr Jenner. The Transport and
Commissariat will be the responsibility of Mr St John Shawe 26 with Mr Humphrey27
undertaking the duties pending Mr Shawe’s arrival at Kismayu.

Orders issued on November 25th instructed Mr Blake to occupy himself
with removing all native huts within a distance of 100 yards from the
walls of the fort and inner town. This was clearly to facilitate the defence
by providing a clear field of fire. The huts were to be relocated and
compensation paid to the owners. On November 27th, Mr Blake was
instructed to:
Be so good as to arrange to complete the tramway from the pier to a spot about 100
yards from the barbed-wire fence as early as possible, and to put the crane into
repair.30
A further directive issued on November 28th requested that ‘all merchants
living in and around Kismayu be informed that until further orders, the
sale of the following articles (coffee tea and sugar) is prohibited to any

Another tragedy early in the campaign served to illustrate the extremely
dangerous nature of the Ogaden Somali. While Wallace Blake was
serving as Provost Marshall in Kismayu, Lieut. Colonel Maitland, the
PMO was killed on March 16th 1901. The punitive column had reached
Ghulime, the last waterhole on the Boran road. Colonel Ternan reports
that.
‘ The bush was much too thick to admit of any effectual scouting (sic) and having
marched 10 miles and it being evident that there was no hope of getting into open
country. I decided to camp and endeavour to find the whereabouts of the enemy. (This
spot is about 57 miles from Afmadu). I accordingly halted and formed up in square,
the companies taking up the positions they would occupy around the zarebah. A few
minutes after the rear-guard had come in, while the men were still standing to their
arms, the enemy attacked in force on three sides of the square and tried to rush the
camp. The troops behaved extremely well and stood their ground. A few of the enemy
however managed to break through the corner near the field hospital, which was being
pitched. I regret to say that Lieut. Colonel Maitland was killed, Dr HE Mann 39
slightly wounded in the arm and head, and several patients were killed and wounded.
Out of the seventeen men who broke into the square none survived, and the remainder
of the attacking force after ten minutes severe fighting were driven off with heavy
losses.’

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