The Strangest Wars in History

tags: war

In the long history of conflict and warfare, four stand out as some of the strangest; the shortest war in history lasted just 38 minutes; the longest war in history did not kill anyone; the Australian Army lost a campaign against a flock of emus; two Central American countries were provoked into war by a soccer game.

The Anglo-Zanzibar War: The Shortest War in history

On August 25, 1896, the Sultan of Zanzibar, Hamad Bin Thuwaini, unexpectedly died (some whispered that he had been poisoned). For many years, Zanzibar, an island off the east coast of Africa, had been fought over by European powers, particularly Germany and England, and Bin Thuwaini had been a consistent supporter of the British, granting London a number of land concessions and trade rights. The British were also given control of Zanzibar's Army, which was now trained and commanded by English officers.

One of the provisions in the treaty between England and Zanzibar gave the British Consulate the right of prior approval for any new person who might ascend to the Sultan's throne. However after Bin Thuwaini's death, his nephew Khalid Bin Bargash, known for his anti-British views, claimed the throne, and refused to seek approval from the British Consulate. Bin Bargash barricaded himself in the Sultan's Palace with 2,800 troops from the Palace Guard, two machine guns, and two 12-pounder artillery guns. In response, the British consul sent a warning--if Bin Bargash did not surrender by 9am on August 27, the British would declare war and attack.

At 9:02am, the British opened fire. They had surrounded the palace with 900 Zanzibari troops under English command, five Royal Navy ships in the nearby harbor, and 150 Royal Marines. After first sinking the only ship in the Zanzibar Navy, the old wooden schooner Glasgow, the British turned their naval guns onto the palace, quickly knocking out the Zanzibari artillery and reducing most of the harem building to rubble. At 9:40am, Bin Bagash fled to the nearby German Consulate and fire was ceased. About 500 Palace Guards were killed by the bombardment; no pro-British forces were killed. The war had lasted just 38 minutes.

The British appointed Hamud Bin Mohammed as Sultan, and ruled Zanzibar as a client state for the next 70 years.


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