The Victorian Era Witnessed History’s Shortest War
By 9:40 AM, the palace and the royal harem next door were on fire, the sultan’s flag had been cut down, and the gunfire ceased. A journalist reported that the sultan had “fled at the first shot with all the leading Arabs, who left their slaves and followers to carry on the fighting“. Others, however, stated that he stuck around for a bit longer. However long he stayed, the sultan was not in the palace when the British reached it shortly after the bombardment stopped. Khalid, with dozens of his followers, fled to the German consulate, where he sought refuge. By that afternoon, the British had installed their favorite, Hamoud bin Muhammad, as sultan in his place.
The war had lasted roughly thirty eight minutes, during which time the British fired about 500 artillery shells, 4100 machinegun rounds, and 1000 rifle bullets. Zanzibaris losses were around 500 men and women killed or wounded, while British casualties consisted of a single petty officer, who was injured aboard a warship. The British sought Khalid’s extradition, but the Germans granted him asylum and transported him to German East Africa. He fell into British hands during World War I’s East Africa Campaign, and was exiled to the Seychelles and then Saint Helena. He was eventually released, and returned to East Africa, where he died in 1927.