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The shortest war in history

November 2016

The shortest recorded war in history was the Anglo-Zanzibar War, a military conflict between the United Kingdom and the Zanzibar Sultanate.  The war was fought on 27 August 1896 and lasted between 38 and 45 minutes, depending on when one considers the beginning or end of the war (the 38 minute mark is the most referenced).

The war came about as a result of the poisoning death of the pro-British Sultan Hamad bin Thwaini Al-Busaid on 25 August 1896,  possibly by his cousin Khalid bin Barghash Al-Busaid, who succeeded him as Sultan.  The United Kingdom refused to allow Barghash Al-Busaid to claim the throne, under provisions of a treaty from 1866, which stated that a new Sultan could only accede to the throne with British permission,

During the war, Barghash Al-Busaid, lost 500 men before he surrendered, while the British casualties were contained to one wounded sailor.

Barghash Al-Busaid fled his palace and took refuge in the German consulate, before being smuggled out of the country to German East Africa.  There he received political asylum, but was captured by the British military in 1916.

He was exiled to Seychelles and Saint Helena, but was eventually allowed to return to East Africa.  He died in Mombasa in 1927.


Thanks to Les Peate of Esprit de Corps magazine for the inspiration and some information for this article.

About the author

Bruce Forsyth

Bruce Forsyth served in the Royal Canadian Navy Reserve for 13 years (1987-2000). He served with units in Toronto, Hamilton & Windsor and worked or trained at CFB Esquimalt, CFB Halifax, CFB Petawawa, CFB Kingston, CFB Toronto, Camp Borden, The Burwash Training Area and LFCA Training Centre Meaford.

Permanent link to this article: https://militarybruce.com/the-shortest-war-in-history/

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