Colonel von Lettow-Vorbeck Refuses to Shoot an Unawares General Smuts

April 7, 2022

General Paul Emil von Lettow-Vorbeck (1870 – 1964), also called the Lion of Africa.

At the end of August, von Lettow stopped off in the mountains. While he was there, up with a front line unit, as was his habit, he saw a small man in British khaki with a neat, red Vandyke beard and a big campaign hat of the sort the Boers wore. He recognized the figure as that of his enemy, General Smuts, and he had him within rifle sight but he did not shoot; he felt it would be unsporting. That was the sort of war that would yet be fought in 1916, when the words “honor” and “chivalry” still had meaning. When the story got to the British through a captured Askari, they accepted it at face value, although some British officers thought von Lettow a fool for it. And the von Lettow legend grew.

Edwin P. Hoyt, Guerilla: Colonel Von Lettow-Vorbeck and Germany’s East African Empire (New York: Macmillan Publishing Co., Inc. 1981), 132.

Short Stories on Honor, Chivalry, and the World of Nobility—no. 823

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