1904 August 11 – Battle of Ohamakari / Waterberg

Battle Ohamakari Waterberg OvaHerero Samuel Maharero German colonial troops Schutztruppe Lothar von Trotha Sandveld Omaheke Kalahari

• Battle of Ohamakari / Waterberg •

In the course of June and July 1904, the main army of OvaHerero under the command of Chief Samuel Maharero assembled at the Waterberg – with women, children and the elderly, as well as cattle and goats. There were springs, waterholes and pastures. The number of OvaHerero is a controversial issue. Estimates range from 15,000, based on available resources and weeks of residence, to 60,000.

The commander-in-chief of the Schutztruppe, General Lothar von Trotha, attempted to surround and defeat the OvaHerero at the Waterberg with around 1,500 armed men. He had ordered the establishment of encampments for prisoners-of-war, which speaks against an intention at that point in time to exterminate the OvaHerero.

An estimated 3,000 Herero men, armed with rifles, awaited the German divisions approaching from various directions. They were well rested, familiar with the terrain, used to fighting in the bush and strategically well positioned.

The Germans had problems with the communication and coordination of their divisions. One division lost its bearings in the dense bush and the 30 artillery pieces and 14 machine guns could not be optimally deployed in the thicket.

Decision to flee to Betchuanaland

In the evening, the OvaHerero stopped fighting. Samuel Maharero and his chiefs at Ohamakari (approx. 10 km south-east of the mission station on the Waterberg and 4 km west of Okakarara) decided to flee through the Omaheke (also called Sandveld, as part of the Kalahari) to the British protectorate of Betchuanaland (Botswana). The men moved eastwards with their families and most of their livestock. They overran the weak German troops positioned there as part of the “encirclement ring”.

The soldiers and horses of the Schutztruppe were exhausted from the long march and the fierce fighting. Within three days, hundreds of horses died of exhaustion. There were not enough supplies. The pursuit of the OvaHerero could therefore only be taken up two days later and had to be abandoned a few weeks later.

26 German soldiers were killed in the battles of Ohamakari / Waterberg, 60 were wounded. The number of casualties on the OvaHerero side is estimated at 120 to 150.



Battle Ohamakari Waterberg Herero Samuel Maharero German Schutztruppe Lothar von Trotha Sandveld Omaheke Kalahari

The German colonial troops (Schutztruppe) against the backdrop of the Waterberg on the western edge of the Sandveld / Omaheke (part of the Kalahari) in August 1904. Photo source: National Archives of Namibia

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