British Somaliland (in the northwest of present day Somalia) became a British protectorate in 1884, and was administered by a Commissioner.

In 1915, the Commissioner, Sir Geoffrey Francis Archer wrote: ‘the Somalis appear to be little affected by outside influence, and much more directly interested in the progress which is being made in securing them from attack by their own enemies, the dervishes, and in the settlement of their inter-tribal affairs’ (CO 535/39).

This effectively sums up the state of affairs in Somaliland from 1914 to 1918. At the outbreak of war, there were no enemy subjects in the protectorate and the only danger seemed to be the potential bombardment of Berbera, the capital,  by enemy ships. Trenches were constructed and seven pounders and machine guns were deployed as measures to oppose a landing party which never came (CO 535/39).

During the war, the whole protectorate focused on the fight against the Dervishes (WO 106/23). British military commitment elsewhere meant that Somaliland ‘couldn’t expect reinforcement maxims, rifles or ammunition from any part of the Empire’, whilst it was suspected the Dervishes might get support from the Ottomans and the Germans (CO 535/35). On the whole, however, Somaliland was not affected by a war to which it contributed very little (CO 535/42).

Key figures

Sir Geoffrey Francis Archer

Commissioner, then Governor of British Somaliland (1914-1923)

Mohammed Abdullah Hassan

Religious leader

Key documents

  • British Somaliland original correspondence, 1914-1918 CO 535/35-54
  • Synopsis of the campaign against the mullah, 1916-1919 WO 106/23