Anglo-Zanzibar War destroyed palace

Was This The Shortest Ever War In Military History?

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

Anglo-Zanzibar War destroyed palace

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 August 27, 1896.

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

It occurred during a period known as the 'Scramble for Africa' - around 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.

Artists impression of the war
An artist's impression of the Anglo-Zanzibar war.

British officials, who had their own preference in Hamud 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.

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 began to gather in the area on August 25th.

Zanzibar 1902 panorama
Zanzibar, 1902. The masts of the sunken HHS Glasgow can be seen on the surface of the water.

At 09:02, on August 27, 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 precise duration.

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

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