Mozambique was controlled by the Portuguese for a long time and, of course, Portugal has been a friend for a long time, so up until the twentieth century we hadn’t invaded it very much.
Our time came in the First World War. The local German commander Lettow-Vorbeck was leading a column wending its way around East Africa, keeping German hopes in the area alive. We were trying to catch him and defeat him. By November 1917 Lettow-Vorbeck was very short of supplies. In an extraordinary and little-known episode of the war, the Germans sent an airship to try to re-supply him. The naval airship L59 had made it all the way south to a position near Khartoum before the mission was called off.
Then, in late November 1917, Lettow-Vorbeck crossed into what is now Mozambique in search of supplies. We followed. British troops landed at Porto Amelia/Pemba and along with other British units moving south overland, pursued Lettow-Vorbeck not very successfully to the territory around the port of Quelimane. Further British troops were landed in the summer of 1918. On 3 July 1918, Lettow-Vorbeck attacked the railway station of Nhamacurra, defeating a British and Portuguese force. Many of those who died on our side did so because while trying to escape they drowned or were killed by crocodiles in the Nhamacurra River. Fighting in France and Belgium was mostly a hugely grim experience, but at least there weren’t that many crocodiles around. Eventually, Lettow-Vorbeck eluded the main forces pursuing him by turning north and moving out of what is now Mozambique. We followed. Again.