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Tuesday, 28 August 2012

The shortest war in history.

On August 27, 1896, the Anglo-Zanzibar War started ... and ended. Considered history's shortest war, it lasted less than 40 minutes.

The run-up to the war had started two days earlier, when Zanzibar's leader - Sultan Hamad - died suddenly, prompting speculation that he had been poisoned by his nephew. That speculation heightened when his nephew, 29-year-old Khalid bin Bargash, quickly moved to seize the throne. Great Britain objected, citing a treaty between the two countries requiring British approval of a new ruler in Zanzibar.

The two sides flexed their muscles a bit and prepared to throw down. England parked three ships just off the shore of the Indian Ocean and sent a warning to Khalid. He sent a reply: "We don't believe you would open fire on us." England assured him that he was wrong.

Shelling of the palace began at 9 a.m., and Khalid bolted from the scene approximately five seconds later. The shelling continued for 38 minutes until the palace and all connecting structures were destroyed and in flames. For good measure, England destroyed Zanzibar's Navy, which consisted of one obsolete ship. The ship sank in such shallow water that its masts protruded above the surface for 16 years before someone finally got around to scrapping the ship.

An estimated 500 Zanzibaris were killed or wounded - mostly palace servants - while Britain's casualties consisted of one petty officer who was injured but recovered.

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