History

Was This The Shortest Ever War In Military History?

The conflict is thought to have lasted as little as 38 minutes or as long as 45...

It is typically considered to be the shortest ever war in military history.

Lasting between 38 and 45 minutes, according to differing reports, the Anglo-Zanzibar War took place on the morning of 27 August 1896.

Resulting in a British victory, there was a comparatively lengthy build-up of about two days before the war started.

It happened during a period known as the 'Scramble for Africa' – about three decades of mass colonisation of the continent by European nations at the turn of the 19th to the 20th Century.

Zanzibar became a protectorate of the British Empire following a treaty signing, with Hamad bin Thuwaini appointed Sultan in 1893.

His sudden death three years later resulted in Khalid bin Barghash assuming the position of Sultan – crucially, without the required approval of Britain for accession.

British officials, who had their own preference in Hamoud bin Muhammed, demanded Khalid stand down – demands which were refused, despite opportunities for him to give up his position.

These actions were viewed by Britain as provocative, and preparations began to wage war.

Damage following Anglo-Zanzibar War CREDIT PUMP PARK VINTAGE PHOTOGRAPHY ALAMY
Some of the damage following the Anglo-Zanzibar War (Picture: Pump Park Vintage Photography/Alamy).

Khalid quickly surrounded himself in the palace by nearly 3,000 men, armed with artillery guns and even a vessel, in the form of the Royal yacht HHS Glasgow, which was subsequently sunk in the war.

Meanwhile, Britain brought just over 1,000 ground troops and five naval warships which had begun to gather in the area on 25 August.

At 09:02, on 27 August, the attack began on the palace, ending as quickly as 38 minutes later with the surrender of the anti-British forces.

The five Royal Navy ships involved recorded differing times for the exact point at which the last shots were fired, which results in the uncertainty over the precise duration.

About 500 Zanzibari people were killed or hurt in the war; one Brit was wounded.

Afterwards, Hamoud bin Muhammed was appointed the new Sultan, bringing to an end the shortest ever war in military history.