Braithwaite, Francis Joseph

The eldest son of the Reverend Francis Joseph Braithwaite, Rector of Great Waldingfield, Sudbury, Suffolk and Dean of Clare College, Cambridge. His mother was Mary Braithwaite, daughter of the Reverend John Hopkinson of Allwalton, Huntingdon. His brother was William John Braithwaite (D 1888-1894). He came to Winchester from Dunchurch Hall and went to Sandhurst in 1891.

Two years later he was gazetted to the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment. He served as an officer of mounted infantry throughout the Boer War, was mentioned in despatches, and on the conclusion of peace was appointed to the Claims Commission in the Orange River Colony. He was promoted to Captain in 1905.

On the outbreak of the First World War he was in India with his regiment, and two months later the unit was ordered to East Africa where the war was not going well for the British. The Loyal North Lancashires, with a unit of Indian soldiers, carried out a landing at Tanga on 3rd November 1914 in an attempt to invade German East Africa but had the misfortune to come up against a superb German officer, Colonel (later General) Paul von Lellow-Vorbeck. The landing site turned out to be a mangrove swamp and totally unsuited for such a landing. The Germans were waiting in concealed positions and opened fire on the advancing British and Indian troops, killing 12 British officers.

The Battle of Tanga is also known as the Battle of the Bees, due to the battlefield being very close to hives of hollow logs housing particularly large and aggressive bees. Disturbed by the noise and by the bullets, the bees emerged from their hives in huge clouds and descended on the Indian troops. Geoffrey Regan in “Military Blunders (Carlton 2001): “At once panic spread, with troops fleeing towards the safety of the sea pursued by bees, which stung them as they went. Refreshingly impartial, some bees stayed to sting the Askaris (German native troops), but the main attack was directed at the British troops. One engineer was stung three hundred times while another, unconscious from a wound, returned to consciousness to find himself being dive‑bombed by hundreds of bees. To the hysterical British soldiers it seemed as if the bees were yet another cunning German trick.” The entire action was a disaster for the British and Indian soldiers.

The Germans counter-attacked on the evening of 4th November and the British troops were forced to retreat to their boats. The Battle of Tanga had cost the British 847 casualties, of which 360 were killed, and the loss of huge amounts of equipment, which kept the German war effort going for some time. Major General Aitken, the senior officer commanding the British troops, was recalled home, reduced in rank to Colonel and retired on half pay.

Braithwaite fell in action near Tanga on 4th November, aged 42. His commanding officer, Lieutenant-Colonel Jourdain put Braithwaite’s name forward for a gallantry award: “For gallant leading and judgement in face of hot fire.” However, this was not approved.   Since the Germans had been left in control of the battlefield, the British were unable to recover their dead. When Tanga was eventually captured, later in the war, a Memorial Service was held. The remains of over seven hundred bodies had been recovered, but identification was difficult by then.   However, one officer’s body had gold fillings in its teeth, and this was deemed to be Braithwaite, since he was by far the oldest officer of the Loyals to have been killed. The remains were buried in the Tanga Memorial Cemetery, Tanzania.

In 1906 Braithwaite married Miss Norah Burke, daughter of Lieutenant Colonel Walter Burke, of Bulmer, Sussex. He left four children: his son, Lieutenant Thomas Leyland Braithwaite (D 1926-1930) was killed in 1941 flying for the South African Air Force.

War: World War 1

  • Surname: Braithwaite
  • Forenames or initials: Francis Joseph
  • House: D
  • Years in School: 1886-1889
  • Rank: Major
  • Regiment: North Lancashire Regiment
  • Date of Birth: 5th December 1872
  • Date of Death: 4th November 1914
  • How Died: Killed in action
  • Location in War Cloister: Outer H3
  • Decoration: NA