Armies in Southern Angola

The Portuguese
From 1848 until 1926, the Portuguese fought close to 200 actions and campaigns in Angola. The struggle, against the various European colonial powers and native kingdoms, to maintain its claims over such vast African territories was one that Portugal, with its limited resources and manpower, could not afford. It's amazing how it could hold on against such overwhelming odds. At the beginning of the century and until 1885, the Portuguese military were dependant on the resilience and efforts of many forgotten officers. The backbone of the expeditions were usually made up of ill equipped askaris armed with Sniders and African auxiliaries, led by white officers and settlers. Only the specialist troops, such as the artillery, were European. The metropolitan expeditions sent during the 1860's and 1870's were issued with the usual uniform which consisted of a dark blue coat, white loose trousers and white havelock. They were armed with the traditional Martini-Henrys. The askaris were issued a dark brown coat, but that was not always the case, since equipment rotted very quickly in Africa. In the 1880's European troops were issued a white uniform. The havelock was used along with the slouch hat which was specially used by the officers. Some of them, like Artur de Paiva in the south, even dressed Boer style on a few campaigns. At this time the standard rifle of European troops became the Austrian made Kropathschek 8mm mod. 1886, which was latter produced under licence in Portugal, while the African troops were equipped with the Martini-Henry. In 1900 a new colonial uniform regulation was adopted. Khaki was to be warn by all troops. The Europeans were issued broad brimmed hats, while the African troops were issued with a red fez and short baggy trousers. Officers often used white trousers. In 1898 the Mossamedes Dragoons had a light grey uniform but latter adopted the khaki. The cavalry was armed with swords and Kropathschek carbines, with the second squadron also equipped with lances. The artillery was equipped with Portuguese made BEM 7 cm m/1882 mountain-guns, Krupps, Canets and latter on also with the Erhardt. The standard machinegun was the widely used Nordenfeldt, sometimes serviced by naval gunners. The naval infantry during the Kwamato campaign, used a blue-grey infantry uniform with the sailors tippet. The African troops quality was often questionable and by 1900's the majority of the expeditions were formed by Europeans. The adopted formation in combat was the square, like in many African campaigns. By the end of the century the quality of officer's Corps increased as the influx of experienced personnel began to arrive from the East African campaigns.

The Auxiliaries
Both Boers and Portuguese settlers were invaluable auxiliaries during the campaigns. They were the ones who knew the territory and its inhabitants, and often carried their own individual expeditions. They were armed with every kind of rifles available, from Winchesters to hunting rifles. These troops performed well under fire and were often accompanied by their armed African servants. The native auxiliaries were raised by local authorities, farmers and Boers. Armed with old rifles and traditional weapons, they made up the larger part of the earlier expeditions. Although performing well, if efficiently led, they were more then often unreliable allies.

The Mercenaries
Oorlog, was a tall and dry African, one of those native warrior military genius. With his mixed band of Damara and Herrero mercenaries that escaped from South West Africa, roamed the plateau, attacking on one hand the native villagers and on the other accompanying the Portuguese on several expeditions. He was the unquestionable leader of all African auxiliaries. This obscure figure, was the son of Tom, the Tswana mercenary, and a Herrero woman. He was born in 1863, the year when Hottentots and Herreros fought each other. For this reason he was named Vita, which translated to Afrikaans meant "War" (Oorlog). Tough and steady with his men, he forgave no flaws. His justice was swift and permanent. Once, during a reconnaissance, one of the auxiliaries refused to ford the Cunene. Oorlog, immediately put a bullet through his head. In 1907 he was with the column in Kwamato. When the campaign ended he was appointed chief of the native police force then established. During the 1914 combats with the Germans, he was one of the few who stayed loyal to the Portuguese, accompanying the expeditionary force against the Kwanyama in 1915-16. His men, dressed with mix of European and African clothes, were armed with modern rifles, and some, not many, had horses. These are first rate fighters who keep their cool under fire and are very loyal to the Portuguese.

The Humbe
The Nyaneca-Humbe comprise 11 tribes: Muila, Gambo, Humbe, Ndonguena, Hinga, KhwanKhuwa, Handa of Mupa, Handa of Quipungo, Quipungo, Quilengue-Humbe and Quilengue-Musó. Descending from the Bancumbi, invaders from the north, who founded the great Humbe-Onene kingdom, which stretched from the Cunene to Central Angola, and the Damara invaders from the south, the Humbe, like many other nations of Southern Angola, were herdsmen. Their life and wealth depended on cattle. The settlers advance, the taking of their lands by farmers and general exploitation often resulted in fierce and vengeful attacks by both parts. The Humbes were usually armed with spears, daggers, small maces, axes and longbows. Non carried shields. Some were armed with old flintlocks, called canyangulos or Lazarinas, and modern rifles. Their hair style varied from skin-headed dread-locked pony-tails, to the more usual full hair locks bound at the back. They never wore bright clothing, preferring to use a leather or black ox cloth (only the royalty could were black goats skin), with a leather half-mooned shaped piece at the back. Their main tactic was to wear down the enemy and then fight at close quarters. They are brave terrible warrior, and every one that falls on theirs hand is bound to have a painful death.

The Kwamato
The Kwamato belong to the Ovambo family which comprises 12 tribes: Donga, Kwambi, Ongandjera, Kwaluthi, Ombalanto, Colucatsi, Eunda, Dombondola, Kwamato, Kwanyama, Evale and Cafima. The more numerous being the Kwanyama, Donga and Cafima. More accurately, they should be called Bana n' cutuba, because of a shell shaped piece of leather that they use to cover their backside, the n' cutuba. They diverge from the other native peoples in height, robustness and character. They are a nation proud of their independence and brutality. Herding and raiding are their trades. The armament consists mainly of the traditional assegai, daggers, spiked clubs, bows and arrows with various rifles (Mausers, Kropathscheks, Martini-Henrys, old Sniders and flintlocks) adding to the mix. The Kwamato and their allies could gather a force of up to 20 000 warriors armed with 7000 rifles. The tactical unit is the cua, led by a lenga, or war chief, numbering between 100 to 600 warriors, and a number of lengas form an etanga (army). When at war, the army gathers at the capital, Maghogo, under the command of a royal blooded chief, or an experienced lenga. In 1907, the army commander was Danieca. The best fire arms belonged to lengas, sobas and sharpshooters. The rest was distributed among their relatives. The chiefs often wore European clothing, with feathered hats and ridded horses, but never fought on horseback. Once the enemy is found, the army moves in as pincers, surrounding the foe. The troops are positioned in two lines, the first is always the best led and equipped, while the second stays in reserve for close combat. Every piece of terrain is used for cover. The best shooters are detached and placed on the most favourable spots to deliver a murderous fire upon the enemy. Once the square falters, the second line charges and no quarter is given. The Kwamato, astute and intelligent warriors, are more than a match for any poorly led expedition.