Tag: German
Zanzibar (Photo credit: @Doug88888)

Throughout the nineteenth century, the Sultan of Zanzibar ruled most of the East African mainland. He held tight control over the region, and ran lucrative ivory and slave trades. The indigenous tribes resented the control, but weren’t nearly powerful enough to oppose it.

As David Livingstone launched his expedition from Zanzibar, other explorers joined him and they began to send back reports of the horrors of the African slave trade. Political lobbyists in England began to press the Sultan to quit the slave trade, and in 1873, he reluctantly capitulated to their demands.

Thanks to these efforts, the British government held an informal control over the Sultan for a time. In the 1880s, British control came under threat by the Germans who began quietly garnering allegiance and support from the local tribe leaders. They moved quickly, getting each tribe to agree to the Kaiser being their overlord. The tribe leaders were quick to agree, misguidedly assuming that a distant overlord would be less trouble than the nearby Sultan.

The Germans formed a German East Africa Company that incorporated all the lands of the tribal treaties that they had signed. The new colony was dubbed Tanganyika and stretched from Tanganyika to Witu.

The British were taken fully by surprise, and moved rapidly to counter the German occupation. They set up the British East Africa Company and once again put pressure on the Sultan to hand over command of his remaining lands in East Africa. Once the land was rightfully divided between the Germans and the British, a temporary peace was established as each agreed to respect the others’ domain. A few years later, a more binding agreement was officially signed, giving Britain rule over Zanzibar and all the land from the Island of Pemba to Lake Victoria and the Nile watershed.

Before long, the East Africa Company found that their income was not nearly enough to offset the expenses of administration, so they sold their lands and buildings to the British Government. The government had the resources to properly develop the region, and a railway was soon built which opened up the highlands for white settlement.

Britain's possessions in British East Africa d...
Britain’s possessions in British East Africa during the colonial period. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The highlands provided a pleasant climate and land suitable for growing a variety of cash crops. In 1906, white settlers had moved in and developed crops of tea, coffee and tobacco. In 1907, the white settlers were given a select number of seats in the local government, though the local governor maintained majority control over who was appointed.

At the end of the First World War (which strongly impacted Kenya’s white population), the British settlers there pressed for the adoption of Kenya as a Crown Colony. This request was granted, giving the settlers far great rights in the region. Though the British government stated that as an African territory, the natives should be paramount, the lion’s share of government representation was given to the white settlers.

This inequality coupled with the worldwide depression of the 1930s led to serious tensions in the region. Nationalist groups grew up, and Kenya was wracked by deadly rebellions. The Mau Mau rebellion resulted in the murders of multitudes of British settlers and those who worked for them.

The rebellion was quelled, and throughout the 1950s, the Africans were given more lands and greater representation in government. In 1960, the policy of “one person one vote” was established, effectively ending the imbalance of power held by the white settlers.

By the end of British colonial rule in 1963, there remained some 60,000 white settlers living in Kenya. That number has dropped over the years, and today there are an estimated 32,000 British expatriates  living there. There are a number of well-known Britons who were actually born in Kenya, including Evolutionary scientist Richard Dawkins, cyclist Chris Froome, and Sir Michael Bear, 683rd Lord Mayor of London.


The Shotely Bridge Swordmakers

In the late 1600s, a colony of Germans quietly settled in at Shotely Bridge and set up what would become the heart of Britain’s sword making industry. The little group of families, led by the Oleys and Moles, had fled from Solingen in 1688, though no one knows why for certain. Some have suggested that they were fleeing religious persecution. Other sources indicate that they may have been escaping the wrath of a local sword maker’s guild whose secrets they had betrayed.

The Solingen 02
The Solingen 02 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Whatever the reason for their arrival, they found an ideal home in Shotely Bridge. Naturally, they wanted a locale where they could maintain the secrecy of their trade, and they spent some time searching for the perfect home. They initially looked near London before making their way north, exploring along the banks of the Tyne. It wasn’t until 1691 that they came upon the sequestered spot a few miles from Ebchester. The tiny village of Shotely Bridge was remote and the very soft water of the Derwent was perfect for tempering steel.

It is quite apparent that a number of German immigrants had settled in the region earlier in the century as well, and this may be an additional factor in why the sword makers chose to make Shotely Bridge their home. The register in the nearby town of Ebchester shows an entry recording “Eleanor, the daughter of Matthias Wrightson Oley, baptized 1628.” The Wrightsons were an old family in Ebchester and it seems that a number of German Oleys had arrived in the region several decades before the Shotely Bridge settlers.

They were an overall respectable people. The quiet settlers were industrious with strong moral and religious principles. They established themselves easily, mingling freely with natives of the dale. The sword makers of Shotely Bridge quickly gained a reputation for the outstanding quality of their swords, knives and cutlery. They became widely known for their skill in engraving and gilding and the art of tempering steel – an art that was unknown in England before their arrival. There was one weapon though, that none in England could imitate: the hollow sword blade. These blades took special skill that few but the Shotely Bridge sword makers possessed.

Skull showing sword-blade trauma, 1903
Skull showing sword-blade trauma, 1903 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When the Napoleonic wars began, demand for good swords rose sharply and Shotely Bridge was the primary provider of the needed weapons. Rather than manufacturing their own iron as was common at the time, the sword makers purchased high quality Swedish iron from Danmora. From this high quality iron they produced the steel used in their craft.

For many years the Germans, and particularly the Oley family, enjoyed great prosperity. They enjoyed high profits, their workmen had high wages, and there was an enormous demand for their products. When William Oley died in 1808, nearly the whole of the village and surrounding territories were owned by the Oley family.

Unfortunately, William Oley’s sons neglected the trade. Competition in the sword making industry increased, and as the Napoleonic war ended, so did the demand.

Today, most of the old German families have faded away, though a few remain. Besides a few Oleys, we can find a number of Molls (though they now spell their name Mole). Sword blades are no longer made in Shotely Bridge, however, and the art has been lost with time and neglect.

Further Reading

The Sword Makers of Shotley Bridge

Swordsmiths in England

Surnames of North East England

German Pork Butchers in Britain


Before burgers, fish and chips and kebabs came the original takeaway: German pork pies, sausages, rissoles and other ready-made foodstuffs. During the 19th century, while most European emigrants were making their way to North America, a significant number of Germans were quietly making England their new home

Pork packing in Cincinnati. Print showing four...
Pork packing in Cincinnati. Print showing four scenes in a packing house: “Killing, Cutting, Rendering, [and] Salting.” Chromo-lithograph of the cartoons exhibited by the Cincinnati Pork Packers’ Association, at the International Exposition, at Vienna.. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
In the Hohenloheregion in the north-east of Germany, population growth, agricultural depression and a series of crop failures provided a significant push-factor. Germans from the region began looking outward for new opportunity, with a number of skilled professional butchers making their way to England in 1817.

The butchers quickly established themselves and found a ready market in the rapidly-expanding cities of Northern England. Industrialization was leading to a burgeoning population who demanded cheap, ready-made basic foods. The butchers had arrived at an opportune moment to serve a market of factory workers who wanted a convenient, hot meal after finishing work.

The demand quickly outstripped the supply, leading more butchers to open shops across England. In Sheffield, for example, one lone butcher shop in 1817 grew to 14 shops by 1883, and 18 shops by 1914. Soon, the number of qualified Hohenlohe butchers could no longer meet the demand, so they called out to young men back home.

Young farmers’ sons were ready and able to take up the challenge. Once the winter set in, they jumped into butchery courses where they learned the art of slaughtering and butchering. Back home, their mothers taught them to produce the savory German sausages and salted, smoked and pickled meats that were in such high demand in England. With well-honed skills, the young butchers entered the British market near the middle of the 19th century.

As butchers grew wealthy, some sent letters home recruiting young women for household help. Others wrote home looking for wives. German women answered the call, bringing with them a whole set of skills and delightful family recipes to add to the butchers’ offerings.

Butchers (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The German butchers and their families quickly spread to all parts of Northern England, eventually establishing themselves as far afield as Scotland and Ireland. Butcher shops were soon opened in London as well as the German community continued to spread and grow.

The demand for cheap, ready-made foods continued to grow, and in the 1870s, the immigrant butchers called for a third wave of emigrants. A whole new flock of young apprentice butchers and young girls finished school and set off for work in Britain. The boys immediately jumped into their new employment, and girls served in German households.

A 1897 newspaper ran a story documenting the phenomenon, noting “The Germans created this business amongst us … In every town there are many of them, and there is now hardly a village (…) throughout the North of England that has not one or more. Englishmen have all along been to blame for neglecting the pig as a subject of human food (….). But the German is the pork man par excellence”

At first, the Germans stayed in close, tightly-knit communities. They spoke little English, and maintained their traditions, customs and stories. Eventually, however, they realized that their enterprise would be better served by integration into British society. This allowed them to thrive even further, with some taking leading positions in pork butchers’ associations.

Unfortunately, the two World Wars brought widespread intolerance toward the German butchers. The once-thriving business went into decline, and the rich history of the Hohenlohe butchers was greatly diminished. A few establishments did make it through, like the Herterichs in Ireland and the Haffners in Burnley; however, little remains today of the once-famous German takeaway specialties.


1. New light on the German Pork Butchers in Britain (1850 – 1950)” by Karl-Heinz Wuestner, Ilshofen, Germany http://www.surrey.ac.uk/cronem/files/conf2009papers/Wuestner.pdf

The King’s German Legion

From the time George I ascended the throne of England in 1714 until the end of the reign of William IV in 1837, the Kings of England also ruled as Electorates over Hanover in Germany. In 1803, however, Hanover was occupied by Napoleonic troops. Though the German States had no quarrel with the French at the time, Napoleon justified his occupation of Hanover by pointing out that since it was under British rule, it was fair game.

English: A Sergeant 2nd Btn. (Light infantry) ...
A Sergeant 2nd Btn. (Light infantry) King’s German Legion, British Army, Waterloo (1815). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Due to extreme apathy on the part of the Hanoverian government, little importance had been placed on military strength in the electorate. The nominal strength of the armed forces, including infantry, cavalry, artillery and engineers was counted at 15,546. In reality, more than a third of these men were on furlough, leaving the real force at around ten thousand men. There were numerous vacancies throughout the regiments, leaving a dearth of both officers and soldiers. Fortresses had been neglected, and military discipline had relaxed almost to the point of being non-existent. Thus, when the Electorship of Hanover was overrun by French troops, the army of Hanover posed little opposition and quickly surrendered. This led to the signing of the Convention of Elbe, which formally dissolved the Electorate of Hanover.

George III refused to recognize the Convention of Elbe, however. He quickly sent off a letter to Colonel Friedrich von der Decken commanding him to raise a corps of soldiers to be called “The King’s German Legion.” In August of 1803, thousands of soldiers from the former electorate army emigrated to England to become part of the King’s legion. By December of 1803, the King’s German Legion was officially established and placed under the command of His Royal Highness Adolphus Frederick, Duke of Cambridge.

So many soldiers answered the call that they exceeded the original plans for a light corps. The King’s German Legion incorporated soldiers in all positions, including horse and foot artillery, light and heavy cavalry, light and line infantry, as well as a corps of engineers.

Though they had come from the rather undisciplined ranks of the Electoral army, the King’s German Legion became known for its outstanding discipline and fearsome fighting skills. Its cavalry ranked as one of the highest in the British army, and according to historian Alessandro Barbero, the Legion “had such a high degree of professionalism that it was considered equal in every way to the best British units.”

Edmund Wheatly, who procured a commission in the KGL in 1813 was duly impressed and noted that, “The Germans bear excessive fatigues wonderfully well, and … will march over six leagues (18 miles) while an Englishman pants and perspires beneath the labour of twelve miles.”

Though the Legion never fought on their own, they participated in numerous campaigns, lending their strength to the bulk of the British troops. They fought alongside the British in Hanover, Pomerania, Copenhagen, and Walcheren under General Sir John Moore. They then went on to serve under the Duke of Wellington in the Peninsular Campaign, fighting in the battles of Bussaco, Barrosa, Fuentes de Onoro, Albuera, Ciudad Rodrigo, Salamanca, Garcia Hernandez, Burgos, Venta del Pozo, Vittoria, San Sebastian, Nivelle, and Sicily, as well as throughout eastern Spain and Northern Germany.


Possibly the most famous, however, was their participation in the Battle of Waterloo. The 2nd Light Battalion, along with members of the 1st Light and 5th Line Battalions, dug in to defend the road at “La Haye Sainte.” Reinforcements were cut off before they arrived, and the KGL battalion was forced to defend the road and farmhouse for six hours without ammunition or reinforcement. Eventually, however, they had no choice but to retreat and abandon the farm.

After Napoleon was defeated at Waterloo, Hanover once again came under British rule and was re-founded as the Kingdom of Hanover. A new Hanoverian army was formed, and some officers and soldiers of the Legion were integrated into its ranks. Others settled in England – particularly in Bexhill, where parish records show quite a number of marriages between KGL soldiers and local girls.

At its strongest point, the King’s German Legion employed approximately 14,000 soldiers and officers, though over the 13 years of its existence, the King’s German Legion counted as many as 28,000 men in its service at one time or another.


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