German East Africa - 1915 Interim Bank Notes
issued in the field by von Lettow-Vorbeck

I met Oberst Paul von Lettow-Vorbeck's grand daughter in the little town of Weenen, Natal, South Africa. She was married to a farmer and came into the bank agency that I worked in. When she heard of my interest in coins she told me that she had a few old German East African bank notes from the time of her grand father's days at war with the allies (1914 to 1918) and that I could have them as she was considering throwing out these relics from Lettow-Vorbeck's estate that she received when he died a pauper in 1964. She knew little of his extraordinary abilities in the field of battle but gave me six German East African bank notes passed on by the great commander.

These notes are often auctioned on ebay - but it is extremely difficult to get the notes displayed below in the very good condition that they are in.

Tabora and Dar-es-Salaam (One and Five Rupee Notes)

One Rupee (EF Condition), issued 1st December 1915:

Issued nearly a year to the day after the British Navy's battleship Goliath blocked the harbour at Dar-es-Salaam (page 69 "Duel for Mt Kilimanjaro" (see bottom of page) but before the British forces started their major launch to defeat the German forces under von Lettow Vorbeck. 

Five Rupee (Uncirculated Condition), issued 15th August 1915:

Issued very early in the colonial war between the British and German forces.

The book "Battle for the Bundu" (see bottom of page) records on page 42:

"On August 15 (1915) Taveta (on the border of German East Africa and British East Africa to the north) fell to the three hundred Askaris of two Schutztruppe field companies, as the twenty four man garrison of the British East Africa police fired a token volley and retired in good order on Voi" - this was one of the German's few victories over the British during this extended campaign.

One and Five Rupee, both Unc Condition and issued on 1st February 1916:

When this note was issued the Germans still occupied a small portion of British East Africa around the district of Salaita.

The book "Battle for the Bundu" records on page 145:

"The British learned how solidly the Germans were dug in on 3rd February 1916 when they hit Salaita with a pounding artillery barrage that hurled many tons of dirt into the air but failed to budge the defenders an inch."

Just two weeks later that famous South African General Jan Christian Smuts took command of allied forces in British East Africa. Smuts is determined to capture Vorbeck but fails.

Tabora and Dar-es-Salaam (Ten and Twenty Rupee Notes)

Twenty Rupee notes both issued 15th March 1915
(VF Condition):

The book "Battle for the Bundu" record on page 90:

"For most of 1915, Germany's enemies in eastern Africa were immobolised."

At this time the Germans were disrupting the rail link between the port of Mombasa and the inland centre of Nairobi and the German's battleship, the aging Konigsberg, was in hiding in the Rufiji delta.

The Germans were not so lucky on Lake Victoria where the British gunboat Winifred destroys their only armed boat on this massive inland lake bordering their territory.

The notes were printed on a three layer paper, a pink fiber paper on each side of a heavier middle layer. The serial number was printed on the back of the note and handwritten in at the top of the front margin.

In the neighboring colony of British East Africa, the British forged the notes in an attempt to destroy the economy of the German colony. The British forgeries are rare, but easy to identify. The paper is not three-layer, the color is a deeper shade of pink, and the handwritten serial number of the front of the note does not match the printed serial number on the back of the note.

Ten Rupee, issued 1st October 1915 (near Unc Condition):

Extract "Battle for the Bundu" (page 137) - October 1915:

"Of soldiers of the (British) battalion since the beginning of the war in East Africa, 836 have been admitted to hospital and only 278 have not."

Value in 2005: The 1915 Interim Bank 1 Rupee Notes are fairly common - valued at US$10 in EF but the higher denominations are scarcer reaching US$100 when in EF+ condition. The 1 Rupee notes are frequently seen on auction.

[Brief history of German East Africa] [1915 Interim Bank Notes] [The 20 Heller "gun metal" coin struck in 1916]
[1916 15 Rupee "Tabora Pound" Gold Coin] [1917 Interim Bank Notes - struck in the field]

[von Lettow-Vorbeck an extraordinary soldier] [Vorbeck's Despairing Post Card]

[Rare German East Africa Siege Coins, Notes and Collectables] [Web Site Text Site Map]
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