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DOBBERTIN, Walther.

Superb photograph album of the Campaign in German East.

Published: East Africa: 1914-6

Stock code: 82264

Price: £4,500

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Remarkable collection of highly interesting, high quality images from the war in German East, almost certainly the work of Walther Dobbertin, the only professional photographer working in the region. Only one of the images collected here appears to feature in the Dobbertin Collection at the Bundesarchiv, but the others clearly would seem, through opportunity and ability, to be his work, with the great majority of even the smaller format photographs being very well composed. The album opens with images of mustering and entraining at Moshi in preparation for the Battle of Tanga, followed by a sequence showing British shipping including Pegasus entering the harbour, and the the aftermath of the battle, shell-damage to the Hotel Kaiserhof, Lettow-Vorbeck’s HQ, corpses on the ground – some perhaps suggestively in front of the studio of photographer Walther Dobbertin – and “captured English cartridges after the battle”. An excellent run of full-plate images show the consecration of the burial ground for the German fallen at Tanga. These open with a gathering at the Kaiserhof, Lettow-Vorbeck and his wife seated on the veranda wall at the far left; an image of the funeral service for the fallen; and of the graves at both Tanga and, unusually, at Jasin/Jassini, the scene of Lettow-Vorbeck’s second victory of the British. Jasin was significant in dictating the nature of the future of the campaign for Lettow-Vorbeck; “He had in fact won a pyrrhic victory. Fifteen percent of the regular German officers engaged in that action had been killed (one was [Richard] Meinertzhagen’s friend von Hammerstein, who died several days later after being gut-shot), and there was no way of replacing these superbly trained professionals. Nor could the Schutztruppe replenish the 200,000 rounds of ammunition it had fired off … So von Lettow had to try another way of getting at his foes: ‘The need … to restrict myself principally to guerilla warfare, was evidently imperative'” (Miller, Battle for the Bundu, p.94). A later sequence of 8 half-plate images show the damage to buildings in and around Jasin in detail. The salvage operations on the “Blockadebrecher” Kronborg at Manza are recorded in 2 full- and 2 half-plate prints; “For at least eighteen hours of every day they toiled under water – either in the flooded holds or the incessant, driving spring rains … The haul was substantial … Von Lettow got all his rifles plus five million rounds of ammunition and a battery of field guns, along with several tons of medical supplies, telephone equipment, tents, uniforms and liquor” (Miller, p.113). There are some excellent group portraits, including the 27th Company “on the English border near Moa”; “Tanga Police Askaris now joined up as troops”; “Felddienstübung” [field service exercises] for the Landsturm, or militia; a superb picture of a school band that had been called up; and the 16th Company entraining at Tanga for Moshi. The anniversaries of the battles at Tanga and Jasin were celebrated. In Tanga a large group gathered at the Afrika Hotel – Lettow-Vorbeck and wife again apparently in attendance – followed by a parade on the main street; at Jasin a speech is delivered to a group of Askaris drawn up in review, and some views of the cemetery show the new crosses on each grave, including that of von Hammerstein. In all an excellent visual document for this abidingly intriguing campaign.

Landscape quarto album (240 320 mm). Original dark tan half morocco-grained skiver on green linen boards, blind-tooled bands on the spine, foliate roll in gilt to the spine and corner edges, attractively patterned endpapers, grey with repeated interlinked spiral pattern in gold and aqua. 108 original photographs mounted on 30 linen stub mounted grey card leaves, the majority with pencilled captions, on or beneath the image: the prints in three “formats”; 50 “quarter plate” at c.80 111 mm; 38 “half- plate”, c.123 176 mm; 20 “full plate” c.165 225 mm. Album just a little rubbed at the extremities, the contents clean and sound, just a little marginal oxidation or fade to a few of the images, but on the whole clean and with good depth and detail, a very nicely preserved collection.

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