On the night of the 19/20 January 1964, at Colito Barracks in Dar es Salaam, the 1st
Battalion of the Tanganyika Rifles mutinied. The mutineers had three main aims - a
very substantial pay rise for soldiers; the immediate dismissal of all the British officers;
and assurances of no subsequent victimisation of the mutineers. In addition to all the
usual acts of mutiny - the taking of key buildings, the seizure of the airport and media
outlets, and the setting up of roadblocks - efforts would be made to induce the 2nd
Battalion in Tabora to join the mutiny.
However, things didn’t quite turn out as planned. The then President of Tanganyika,
Julius Nyerere, called in a British force comprising 45 Commando Royal Marines and
HMS Centaur to re-establish constitutional government.
Some twenty years later Nyerere challenged the Tanzania People’s Defence Force
(TPDF) to write a detailed account of what had happened, since the embarrassing events
of 1964 had until then been glossed over in Tanzanian history books. This account,
Tanganyika Rifles Mutiny January 1964, which understandably reflects a somewhat
slanted view of the events and its underlying causes, has been the only record until now.
Tony Laurence was serving as Signal Communications Officer in HMS Centaur at the
time the intervention was launched. He was therefore well placed to have an overview of
what was happening off Dar es Salaam during the dramatic few days of the operation. At
the same time Christopher MacRae was serving in the British High Commission in Dar
es Salaam; he not only played an important role at the start of the operations, but also
helped Laurence some forty years after the mutiny by accessing FCO files in the PRO,
and by drafting most of the final summing-up chapters.
Laurence contacted more than 100 marines, sailors and civilians who were caught up
in the chaotic events in January 1964. He has marshalled, and mastered, a highly
complex set of data, and relates a fast-moving story with admirable clarity, a story which
while centred on Dar es Salaam, also involved London, Aden and Kenya.
Barely 24 hours after the outbreak of the mutiny. Centaur and its accompanying
destroyer, HMS Cambrian, left Aden for East Africa; Centaur was commanded by
Captain Ottoker Harold Mojmir St John Steiner. Aboard Centaur was 45 Commando,
commanded by Lt Col Paddy Stevens. Both officers had seen distinguished service in
WWII. The speed of this deployment was remarkable and an extraordinary logistical
feat. Over the next three days, during the passage to Dar, intensive planning meetings
took place. On the 25 January the assault on Colito started with a dawn bombardment by
Cambrian and the Marines were lifted ashore by helicopter. Once the focal point of the
resistance, the guardroom, had been neutralised, the rest of the camp was swiftly
The political and military situation in Dar was very confused and uncertain. Laurence
pulls together the many threads and personalities with skill, and summarises with
MacRae the aftermath and the re-establishment of law and order in a highly delicate and
This account of an almost forgotten episode is highly recommended both to exmilitary
men and to those who served in East Africa in a civilian role. Its level-headed,
detailed and comprehensive telling of an incident in the final stages of colonialism, and
the dawn of African independence, adds lustre to the annals of the Royal Navy and the
Royal Marines, and credit to the co-authors.