Tuesday, 25 October 2011

HMS Serapis

HMS Serapis in 1867

The Crimean War and the Indian Mutiny, not to mention tensions in North America, made it abundantly clear that Britain needed the capacity to rapidly dispatch troops around the world. A small army and worldwide commitments meant that the troops that were available might have to be deployed almost anywhere. The merchant fleet would do at a pinch, but, really, dedicated modern troop transports were needed. This led to the Euphrates class troopships, five huge iron hulled ships with screw engines, a full barque sail plan and a speed of about 14 knots. They were especially designed to fit the Suez canal, and could transport a full battalion of troops to India in just 70 days. The first to be built was HMS Serapis, the latest of several Royal Navy ships with that name, the last of whom had fought at the Battle of Flamborough head in 1779, holding off two American frigates, sinking one and allowing a convoy of 40 merchant ships to escape.

This Serapis was virtually unarmed, just 3x 4dr guns, her potency lay in her cargo. She was soon in use, rushing the 67th (South Lincolnshire) regiment across from Dublin to Canada in August 1867 in response to Fenian attacks from the United States. Not just the soldiers either, their wives and children, at least one child being born en route, Charlotte Serapis Soady Jackson (http://www.freewebs.com/iamanoxymoron/nottinghamlinks.html).

In 1868 the Serapis took part in the Abyssinian campaign, transporting 150 Hales rockets and a mountain battery and 6,000 rounds from Bombay to Zula on the Red Sea.

HMS Serapis. At some point in her early career she was painted white, and pretty spectacular she looked.

In 1869 she headed back to Canada, this time with immigrants not soldiers. The new iron warships needed far less men to make and maintain, leading to high unemployment in dockyard areas like Portsmouth. One government response was to encourage immigration, with free passage for artisans and labourers who had worked at the docks for at least a year, and their families. Between 1869 and 1870 over 2,000 dockyard workers and their families left for Canada, travelling on troopships like the Serapis. Her contribution in April 1869 took 707 passengers (326 males, 166 females and 215 children under 12) from Portsmouth to Quebec, on an 18 day sea journey to, hopefully, a better life.

HMS Serapis leaving Portsmouth with the Prince of Wales

However, most of the life of the Serapis was plying the route between Britain, Alexandria and India, in an endless rotation of troops. She was good at it, working until 1894, far beyond most ships built at the same time. As an example, in January 1874 she transported the 13th Hussars from Portsmouth to Bombay, 430 men including amongst others, 6 sergeant-majors, 16 sergeants, 29 corporals, 7 farriers, and 358 rank and file. And their families - but no horses, the 13th taking over those from the 21st Hussars in Lucknow.

The Prince of Wales's state room on HMS Serapis

The Serapis´s moment of glory came in 1875 when she was chosen to transport the Prince of Wales to India to mark Queen Victoria becoming Empress. This entailed copious modifications, and fabulously furbished state rooms were installed. There was a Royal Marine band and even huge blocks of ice kept in the hold. She called at Bombay, Ceylon, the Portuguese colony of Goa, and Aden before returning home to Portsmouth.

Friday, 21 October 2011

Peking 1900 (2) - Austrians and Boxers 1

In June 1900, the men and women of the International Legation Quarter in Peking found themselves under siege. They were surrounded by thousands of fanatical Boxer militia who made no secret of their desire to slaughter everyone inside, as well as regular Chinese troops - both groups had already murdered diplomats found outside the quarter. Communications with the coast had been cut and, it seemed, the end was only a matter of time. They had two advantages. By forcing all International embassies and businesses into the same area, the Chinese had inadvertently created a block that was, barely, defensible. And secondly, an International band of about 500 marines and sailors had forced their way through before the railway line to the coast at Tianjin was cut. Eight nationalities had troops in Peking, the British, Russians, French, Americans, Japanese, Italians, Germans and Austrians.

The Austrians

The Austrians were officers and men from SMS Zenta, the only Austrian warship in Tianjin at the time, about 10% of her crew. The Zenta, launched only the previous year, had actually been designed for long distance cruising, to show the Austro-Hungarian flag around the world, if you were Austrian and wanted to see the world, this was the ship to be on. She had been on an Asian tour and was on her way to Japan when recalled to help in the evacuation of embassy staff. Other Austrian ships were based in the Russian port of Port Arthur, and were destined to see action in other parts of China, but for now the crew of the Zenta were the only ones available for the international effort.

SMS Zenta & Commander Thormann

Commander Thomann, the captain of the Zenta, took Lt Kollar, Lt Von Winterhalder (the Zenta´s artillery officer), Sub Lt Meyer and Baron Boynburg-Lengsfeld, with 30 seamen and joined the Germans on a train to Peking, arriving on June 3rd. Actually, according to Putnam-Weale, Thomann had been in Peking on a pleasure trip and took command when Lt Winterhalder brought up the troops. Although not the largest contingent, they did supply a Skoda MG M1893 machine gun, which with British and American machine guns, an Italian 1pdr quick firing gun and a cannon cobbled together from bits and pieces and called Betsy gave a certain amount of fire power. The Austrian troops joined their ambassador, Baron Czikann von Walhorn, at the Austrian Legation.

Austrian marines manning a barricade

Tensions gradually increased through Peking, Boxers appeared increasingly on the streets and the Legations fortified themselves as best they could. The Legation area became an armed camp, but as one survivor, B.L. Putnam Weale, notes in his diary "Were we really playing an immense comedy, or was there a great and terrible peril menacing us? I could never get beyond asking the question. I could not think sanely long enough for the answer". later the answer came.

June 14th

Weale continues...

"The day passed slowly, and very late in the afternoon, when some of us had completed a tour of the Legations, and looked at their various picquets, I finished up at the Austrian Legation and the Customs Street. Men were everywhere sitting about, idly watching the dusty and deserted streets, half hoping that something was going to happen shortly, when suddenly there was a shout and a fierce running of feet. We all jumped up as if we had been shot, for we had been sitting very democratically on the sidewalk, and round the corner, running with the speed of the scared, came a youthful English postal carrier. The English youth had started gasping exclamations as he ran in, and tried to fetch his breath, when from the back of the Austrian Legation came a rapid roll of musketry. Austrian marines, who were spread-eagled along the roofs of their Legation residences, and on the top of the high surrounding wall, had evidently caught sight of the edge of an advancing storm, and were firing fiercely. We seized our rifles and in a disorderly crowd we ran down to the end of the great wall surrounding the Austrian compounds to view the broad street which runs towards the city gates.

The Austrian Legation, probably after the liberation of Peking given the number of soldiers

The firing ceased as suddenly as it had begun, and in its place arose a perfect storm of distant roaring and shouting. Far away the din of the Boxers could still be heard, and flames shooting up to the skies now marked their track; but of the dreaded men themselves we had not seen a single one. We found the Italian picquet at the Ha-ta end of Legation Street nearly mad with excitement; the men were crimson and shouting at one another. Bands of Boxers had passed the Italian line only eighty or a hundred yards off, and a number of dark spots on the ground testified to some slaughter by small-bore Mausers. They had been given a taste of our guns, that was all ; and, fearing the worst, every able-bodied man in the Legations fell in at the prearranged posts and waited for fresh developments. "

Later, Boxers burnt plundered and burnt the city around them, the flames clearly visible as the skies darkened. From the route of the flames that the Boxers were drawing closer again.


" The Boxers, casting discretion to the winds, appeared to be once more advancing on the Legations. But then came a shout from the Austrian Legation, some hoarse cries in guttural German, and the big gates of the Legation were thrown open near us. The night was inky black, and you could see nothing. A confused banging of feet followed, then some more orders, and with a rattling of gun-wheels a machine-gun was run out and planted in the very centre of the street. "At two thousand yards," sang out the naval lieutenant unexpectedly and jarringly as we stood watching, "slow fire." I was surprised at such decision. Tang, tang, tang, tang, tang, spat the machine-gun in the black night, now rasping out bullets at the rate of three hundred a minute, as the gunner under the excitement of the hour and his surroundings forgot his instructions, now steadying to a slow second fire. This was something like a counter- excitement; we were beginning to speak at last. It was not so much the gun reports which thrilled us as the resonant echoes which, crackling like very dry fagots in a fierce fire as the bullets sped down the long, straight street, made us realise their destroying power.

The volunteers could now see flames from the Eastern Cathedral, where many Christians had sought sanctuary. Thomann and another senior officer conferred, but events were out of his hands....

"Volunteers to the front," shouted somebody. Everybody sprang forward like one man. A French squad was already fixing bayonets noisily and excusing their rattle and cursing on account of the dark; the Austrians had deployed and were already advancing. "Pas de charge" called a French middy. Somebody started tootling a bugle, and helter-skelter we were off down the street, with fixed bayonets and loaded magazines, a veritable massacre for ourselves in the dark. . . . The charge blew itself out in less than four hundred yards, and we pulled up panting, swearing and laughing. A very fine night counter-attack we were, and the rear was the safest place. Yet that run did us good. It was like a good drink of strong wine. "

Thomann had run with the charge and tried to get the men to return, but they pushed on into the night, finding mutilated bodies the Boxers had left behind. In the end it became clear that nothing could be done in the dark, so when the French commander recalled his men everybody else returned too. A French expedition to the cathedral found it mostly destroyed and there was no one left to rescue so they returned. Few slept that night.

Weale is critical of Thomann several times for what he considers indecision, but as he admits "Whole battalions of Boxers could have lurked there unmarked by us ; perhaps they were only waiting until they could safely cut us off.", In fact this was probably the Boxers best chance for an easy victory. At least Thomann had accompanied the charge, whilst the French commander had sensibly strayed back at the Legation.

June 16th

The Legation Compex. The Austrian embassy is up on the top right, the French further down the road

Weale wrote in his diary...
"Taking the remaining three Legations, the Belgian is hopelessly far away beyond the Ha-ta Gate line; the Austrian is two hundred yards down a side street on which is also the Customs Inspectorate";

and "The Austrian Legation is likewise a little too far away; but for the time being a triple line of barricades have gone up, having been constructed along the road between this Legation and the Customs Inspectorate. To-day, the i6th, carts are no more to be seen on these streets ; foot traffic is likewise almost at an end".

June 20th

Meanwhile fighting had erupted in other parts of China. The forts at Tianjin had been stormed by allied forces, and it is apparently this which persuaded the Dowager Empress to enter on the side of the Boxers. China was now offically at war with the allied powers. On the 19th an ultimatum had been handed to the Legation residents informing them that the Central Government would no longer be responsible for their safety. They had 24 hours after 4pm to leave Peking.

During the 20th Boxer and Imperial troops massed around the Legation complex. There were also the Muslim militia of Tung Fu-Hsiang...

"Down beyond the Austrian Legation came a flourish of hoarse-throated trumpets those wonderful Chinese trumpets. Nearer and nearer, as if challenging us with these hoarse sounds, came a large body of soldiery; we could distinctly see the bright cluster of banners round the squadron commander."
Kansu troops

"Pushing through the clouds of dust which floated high above them, the horses and their riders appeared and skirted the edge of our square. We noted the colour of their tunics and the blackness of the turbans. The manner in which they so coolly rode past fifty yards away must have frightened some one, for when I passed here an hour later the Austrian Legation and its street defences had been suddenly abandoned by our men. "

"At the big French barricades facing north an angry altercation soon began between the French and Austrian commanders. The French line of barricades was but the third line of defence here, and only the streets had been fortified, not the houses ; but by the Austrian retreat it had become the first, and the worn-out French sailors would have hastily to do more weary fatigue-work carting more materials to strengthen this contact point. "

"bang-ping, bang-ping, came three or four scattered shots from far down the street beyond the Austrian Legation. It was just where Tung Fu-hsiang's men had passed. That stopped us talking, and as I took a wad of waste out of the end of my rifle I looked at my watch 3.49 exactly, or eleven minutes too soon. I ran forward, pushing home the top cartridge on my clip, but I was too late. "A quatrecents metres" L , the French commander, called, and then a volley was loosed off down that long dusty street our first volley of the siege. "

Further Reading

Indiscrete Letters From Peking by BL Putnam Weale is an extremely readable account of the siege. Actually, it is more discrete than it appears, as the real name of the author was Bertram Lennox Simpson, an offical in the Chinese Maritme Customs Service. It is available online.

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Peking 1900 (1) - Preparations

By 1900 the Chinese empire had undergone many years of military defeat and humiliation at the hands of European, and then Japanese, forces. For a people accustomed to think of themselves as racially and culturally superior to any on earth, with a thousand year old civilisation, this was intolerable. Discontent made itself most apparent in the countryside, with the growth of The Society of Righteous and Harmonious Fists, or the "Boxers", so named by outsiders for their stress on physical exercises. The Boxers even believed themselves immune to bullets, a belief encouraged amongst the peasents by "proofs" using rigged guns. However bizarre the spiritual aspect of the movement might seem, it tapped into a genuine and widespread sense of grievance, and spread like wildfire through the country.


By Spring 1900 the Boxers were nearing Peking, leaving a trail of murdered Chinese Christians in their wake. They made no secret of their desire to murder every foreigner and Christian in China. Alarmed, and having little faith in the central government, the embassies in Peking asked permission to bring in soldiers from ships moored in Tianjin, the nearest port. With reluctant government agreement, over two days 400 Marines disembarked from warships in the harbour and more or less hijacked trains to Peking, with 11 coaches of troops and ammunition. Once they arrived there was a fraught 6 mile forced march to the Legations where they set about fortifying their respective embassies and the compound. In total the regular forces available were,

Great Britain (82), Russia (81), United States (56), Germany (51), France (48), Austria-Hungary (35), Italy (29), Japan (25)
Total 507

British, American, Australian, Indian, German, French, Austrian, Italian and Japanese troops

As a way of isolated foreign influence, foreign embassies were restricted to the "Legation Quarter", a box about 2 miles long and 1 mile wide which in 1900 contained 11 embassies, as well as various foreign banks and businesses. One one side was the old Tartar wall, but the other edges were just bordered by streets and houses. It was not especially defensible, but barricades were built and every effort made. It was clear some embassies would have to be abandoned, they were just too vulnerable.

The Legation quarter

It is as well the troops arrived when they did, on June 5th the railway line to Tianjin was cut, Peking was isolated and on June 15th a Japanese diplomat was murdered by soldiers of the Chinese army. In fact the position of the central government was causing serious concern, as whilst the Dowager Empress had initially opposed the Boxers, she now seemed to coming round to the idea of using them as a way of getting rid of the hated foreigners. The situation was not helped by the German minister, Klemens Von Ketteler, whose troops captured and executed a Boxer boy. In response, thousands of Boxers stormed into the city, joined by Muslim "Kansu Braves" and burned churches through Peking. They attacked the legations, and were repulsed by gunfire by the British and Germans.

On June 19th the embassy staff were officially told to leave the country, but when the German, Klemens Von Ketteler, tried and was murdered by an army captain they decided they were safer where they were. On June 21st, the Empress declared war on all foreign powers and Imperial Chinese army troops joined the Boxers surrounding the Legation. The 473 foreign civilians, 409 soldiers, and about 3,000 Chinese Christians in the Legation Quarter were under siege.

Friday, 7 October 2011

Portuguese Conquistadors in Africa

The Portuguese were not the first colonisers of East Africa by any means. For 100s of years the coast had been controlled by Arab trading empires, especially the Kilwa Sultanate, an Omani/Swahili clan based in Kilwa (Quiloa in Portuguese), in modern Tanzania. By the time the Portuguese started to arrive, the various trading stations had a certain amount of independence and wanted more, a situation the Portuguese were only too happy to exploit. In fact the Portuguese conquest of East Africa has similarities with the Spanish in Mexico - a rich but declining empire, divisions to exploit, and the ruthless application of force.

The jewel in the Kilwan empire, and the source of much of it's wealth, was Sofala


The reason for Sofala's importance was simple, gold. It lay surrounded by mangrove swamps, at the mouth of the Buzi river which flowed down from the great gold fields of Zimbabwe. Since the 900s Somali merchants had established a small town there, and in the 1180s it was seized by the Kilwa. Not only did they control the distribution point, they subsequently controlled much of the river trade, using dhows to ferry the gold to the coast.

Vasco de Gama

A Portuguese spy, Pêro da Covilhã, had entered Sofala disguised as an Arab and sent back a report of its riches to Lisbon, but Vasco de Gama´s 1498 expedition had failed to find it from the sea (he did manage to reconnoitre the Island of Mozambique though, see below). In 1501, Sancho de Tovar managed to find it, and when Vasco de Gama returned in 1502 he sent Pedro Afonso de Aguiar to investigate. De Aguiar gained an interview with the octogenarian Sultan, Isuf. Now, although it looked like Isuf was the ruler, that wasn´t strictly true. The land, technically, belonged to the Bantu kingdom of Monomatapa, whilst the traders were under the Sultanate of Kilwa. Isuf however, had other ideas, and he signed a political and economic treaty with Portugal. Not that de Aguiar could hang around to enjoy it, de Gama had already set sail for India and he had to hurry to catch up. But Sofala was not ignored in Lisbon, far from it.

In 1505 a powerful little fleet set sail from the Tagus with orders to establish a trading post, or "feitoria" at Sofala, and, significantly, a fortress. Three large carracks of 300-400 tons (the Espirito Santo, Santo Antonio and an unknown flag ship), and three smaller caravels of about 100 tons (Sao Joao, Sao Paulo and again an unknown), under the command of a Castilan, Pêro de Anaya, who was to be become Captain of Sofala. Once established, he was to send the carracks and one of the caravels to Cochin to pick up spices, the other two caravels remaining "on station".

The journey down was not a huge success, the ships getting separated in a storm, the captain of the Santo Antonio fell over board and the officers of the Sao Paulo were massacred by natives on the South African coast. De Anaya meanwhile sailed so far south to avoid the Cape of Good Hope that several sailors died from the cold.

A Portuguese carrack about 1540

Anyway, de Anaya collected the survivors together and anchored at Sofala, requesting an audience with Isuf. What de Anaya "requested" was permission to build a factory and a fort. Now, Isuf didn't actually have the right to grant this, but he was well aware that Kilwa had already been attacked by Francisco de Almeida with 500 men and the ruler there desposed. Monomatapa was a long way away and the Portuguese were in the harbour, he agreed.

The Portuguese immediately started constructing a fort, Fort Sao Caetano. A square was laid out 120 paces long on each side, and then a moat dug "12 palms wide and 12 palms deep". Vegetation was cleared around to give a clear field of fire, and the main wall was constructed within the moat. From September, everyone in the crew was working on the fort, including de Anaya, but by November it was ready, the Portuguese were established. De Anaya assumed the title of Captain of Sofala and is generally considered the 1st Portuguese Governor of East Africa.
Now, the next problem was that although there were plenty of things the Portuguese wanted, from gold and ivory to food, there were little they could give in exchange. The Arabs had often used Somali cotton or fine Indian goods, but Portuguese cloth was of a much lower quality and their craftsmanship couldn't compare to the Indians. What saved them were ship loads of "confiscated" Kilwan goods from India.

As per the original plan the caravels were sent on to India and the two remaining caravels used for local patrols. Unfortunately de Anaya puts them under his son Francisco, who captured two Kilwan cargo ships carrying ivory and Indian calico (and murdered the crews), but in 3 separate ship wrecks lost everything except one small cargo boat. With this he managed to reach Kilwa where the Portuguese base commander promptly put him in jail.

Sofala ("Cefala" in Portuguese) later in 1572, with Fort Sao Caetano

Meanwhile, the Portuguese garrison in Sofala is struck down with malaria, leaving just 30 able bodied soldiers. De Anaya now has virtually no army, and no naval support whatsoever, and suddenly does not look quite so intimidating. Two groups of nobles lobby Isuf - Mengo Musaf wants to expel the Portuguese, "Acute" (or Zacote)) wants to leave them alone. Isuf is only too aware that the Portuguese fleet could return, but as Mengo points out, they could shelter in the fort, so Isuf has what probably seemed a good idea at the time. Instead of attacking directly he persuades a local Bantu chief of the Makonde tribe to come to the town with "5-6000 warriors" and take the fort, promising him anything he finds there. The Makonde were a fairly fearsome warrior people with long experience of fighting Africans and Arabs. Their chief ,"Moconde", agrees. De Anaya though gets prior warning from Acute, and the fort was filled with refugees who were more scared of the Bantu than the Portuguese. This boosts the garrison considerably.

Moconde arrives and, with Mengo´s forces starts besieging the fort, filling the moat with branches. Then, suddenly, de Anaya sallies out with everything he's got. The Bantus are completely surprised, and take heavy casualties, fleeing the field. This is not what Moconde signed up for, and in fact he strongly suspects he´s been tricked. He leaves the scene, burning some of the town as he goes.

Either in hot pursuit, or later that night (depending on the sources) de Anaya makes his way to the palace with a picked force of Portuguese and kills Isuf, taking his head to display outside the walls of the fort. Leaderless, and without their Bantu allies, the Sofalans start fighting amongst themselves for the succession. Somehow, de Anaya turns kingmaker, and manages to put his own client on the throne (either Sulieman, a son of Isuf, or Acute, though possibly they are the same person).

Despite leading the resistance and the raid on Isufs palace, de Anaya must have been a sick man, as he died a few days later from malaria. He had won much glory for himself and Portugal, but in a way his efforts were in vain. In late 1507 the centre of administration , and much of the garrison, was transferred to the island of Mozambique, which had a much healthier atmosphere, not to mention a better port.


Mozambique, or "Musa Al Big" was in fact the Island of Mozambique, about 2 miles off the African coast. It isn´t very big, and is mostly sandy and barren, but it had an excellent harbour. For a maritime power like the Portuguese it was perfect.
Like most of the coastal traffic, it was Arab controlled. In 1498 Vasco de Gama visited with a small fleet of 4 carracks. Nervous of the locals he posed as a Muslim, but nonetheless the local Sultan forced his little fleet to flee. As a Parthian shot, de Gama fired his cannons into the city as he left.

Mozambique Island 1506

The should have been a warning. Within 10 years the Portuguese had established the island as their own, building Fort Sao Gabriel in 1507 and in 1522 they built the Chapel of Nossa Senhora de Baluarte, the oldest surviving European building in the Southern Hemisphere. The Portuguese settlement grew and in 1558, they started work on Fort São Sebastião, steadily increasing the defences so that when attacked by the Dutch in 1607 and 1608 it was strong enough to resist.

The Interior, and the Muzimba crisis

The situation at Sofala and Musa al Big was mirrored all along the East African coast, the Arab conquerors being in turn displaced by the Portuguese. In the 1530s various prospectors & adventurers ("sertanejos" or backwoodsmen) penetrated inland with the aim of finding their own gold, or at least controlling the trade. They made many contacts amongst the local rulers, and intelligence flowed back to Mozambique. Settlement of the area was encouraged by the use of huge land grants (prazos) and the Portuguese set up garrisons and trading posts along the main trade routes, especially along the River Zambezi like Vila de Sena (now Sena) and Tete. Tete, on a crossing point in the river (at least at certain times of the year), was 260 miles from the sea.

In 1591 Portuguese rule along the Zambezi was severely threatened. Tete by now had became a flourishing centre for the gold and ivory trades. The commandant, Pedro Fernandes de Chaves, had control of eleven local rulers, who were obliged to supply up to 2,000 armed men if required. With a mixed force of natives and Portuguese he had recently marched against the Mumbo tribe at Clicaronga about 30 miles away, heavily defeating them them and slaying their chief. His luck was about to run out.

Chaves's colleague at Sena, Andre de Santiago, had marched against the Muzimbas, a Ngoni tribe who lived near the Zambezi. A related tribe has been descibed as fighting in the classic "horned" formation made famous by Zulus centuries later, with a strong central block, but "horns" which spread out to the side and around the flanks of the enemy. This may have been the way the Muzimbas fought, but they also showed a remarkable propensity for fighting from fortifications or in ambush. They had tried to take on the Portuguese earlier by sheltering behind a thorn hedge, which didn't work very well against guns. They had learnt.

The Muzimba village was heavily fortified, with a moat and embankment on which stood a wooden palisade. The earthworks effectively made it cannon-proof. Santiago found it much too hard a nut to ctack and he sent to Chaves for aid. Chaves came down from Tete with about 100 Portuguese, and local auxiliaries lagging behind. Maybe they knew or guessed what was about to happen, but anyway the Muzimbas ambushed Chaves and slaughtered him and the Portuguese, taking their bodies for food - the auxiliaries fled back to Tete. Encouraged, the next day the Muzimbas moved against Santiago, carrying Chaves's head on a stick. Unnerved, Santiago tried to retire, but the Muzimbas fell on his forces as they crossed a river and destroyed them. In all 130 Portuguese had been killed in just a few days.

The Captain General in Mozambique 200 miles away, Pedro de Sousa, now faced losing the Zambezi completely. His first attempt met with disaster, losing many men and having to abandon his cannon, so he organised a powerful force of 200 Portuguese and 1,500 natives and besieged the Muzimba capital with cannon. Again the Portuguese made little headway, and de Sousa had to storm the place, filling the moat with logs. Still the Muzimba held out, showering the native auxiliaries with hot water so they fled, and and de Sousa had to retire. There now spread a rumour in the Portuguese camp that Sena was under attack, though whether this was spread by the Muzimbas or reluctant Portuguese is unclear. A virtual mutiny forced de Sousa to send a large part of his force to relieve the "siege", only for it to ambushed in a gorge and destroyed.

Kilwa ("Quiloa") in 1572. Although appearing an island, in fact the channel could be crossed at certain points. A Kilwan traitor showed the Muzimba the route, only to be later cast into a pit as a reward for his trechery.

The Muzimbas now moved against their neighbours, and either as allies or slaves, made an enormous army of reportedly 15,000 men. They took Kilwa, murdering the inhabitants and sacking the city and headed north to Mombasa. By chance a Portuguese fleet was in the harbour and so Mombasa was delivered, but the Muzimba then went back south, to Melinde ("Melinda" in Portuguese). Melinde was allied with the Portuguese, and in fact had been one of the few towns to give a friendly welcome to Vasco de Gama when he first arrived off the coast. They now had the assistance of 30 Portuguese under Matheus de Vasconcellos, a mixture of soldiers and traders. Anyway, they managed to hold out until a local tribe known to the Portuguese as the Mosseguejos arrived with 3,000 men. The Mossegusjos attacked the Muzimbas from behind and routed them. The Muzimbas by now were a long way from home and had inflicted much cruelty on other tribes as they passed, they now reaped the whirlwind - very few Muzimbas made it back to their city alive, so few that they were no longer a threat. The Portuguese could return to the Zambezi.

Lorenço Marques

In 1544 another Portuguese, Lorenço Marques, was sent to explore the bay around the Estuário do Espírito Santo (Holy Spirit estuary), where the rivers Tembe, Umbeluzi, Matola and Infulene drain into the Indian Ocean. He established various small trading posts and spent most of his life there with an African wife and their children. The bay was named Baía de Lourenço Marques in his honour by order of the Portuguese king, John III.
A small start for the city destined to be the captial of Portuguese East Africa.

Further reading

A general history and collection of voyages and travels, arranged in systematic order:forming a complete history of the origin and progress of navigation, discovery, and commerce, by sea and land, from the earliest ages to the present time (Google eBook). W. Blackwood 1824

Universal history, ancient and modern: from the earliest records of time, to the general peace of 1801. William Fordyce Mavor 1802

Modern History of all nations by Thomas Salmon, 1746

Moçambique and its “decreasing inhabitants”: population censuses in portuguese east Africa in the second half of the 18th century
Author: Ana Paula Wagner Journal: Diálogos Year: 2010 Vol: 11 Issue: 1 e 2 Pages/record No.: 239-266

There is an excellent article on the taking of Sofala on Wikipedia