Forgotten Anglo-Zanzibar War
In the Victorian era, the Sultanate of Zanzibar in what is now Tanzania consisted of the islands of Zanzibar off the East African coast, and the mainland across the water from them. In 1890, the British and Germans divided Zanzibar amongst themselves: Germany got the mainland, while the British got the islands. That same year, Zanzibar’s sultan accepted a British protectorate. Its terms included the requirement that his successors had to be preapproved by the British. When the Sultan died in 1893, the British used that provision to install a puppet replacement, Hamad bin Thawani. He ruled for three years, then died suddenly shortly before noon on August 25th, 1896. It was suspected that his twenty-nine-year-old nephew Khalid bin Bargash had poisoned him.
Khalid immediately moved into the palace in Zanzibar Town, and without British approval as required by the terms of the protectorate treaty, declared himself sultan. The British preferred a more pliant successor, Hamoud bin Muhammad. So they rushed three cruisers, two gunboats, 150 marines and 900 African soldiers to Zanzibar Town. They gave Khalid an ultimatum to vacate the palace by 9 AM, August 27th, or else. He refused, gathered a force of about 2800 men, and barricaded himself in the palace. When the ultimatum expired, the British ships were ordered to open fire, and they commenced a bombardment at 9:02 AM.