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Franke Tower & Battlefield

Omaruru | Namibia

Erich Victor Carl August Franke (b. 21st July 21, 1865, d. 7th August 1936) was a German military officer and last commander of the Schutztruppe in German Southwest Africa. He served in a number of locations, notably in Ovamboland and Kaokoveld. He was stationed at Outjo from 1899 until 1910, and is remembered in particular for his involvement in the early phases of the Herero Uprising of 1904. He was dubbed the 'Hero of Omaruru' after leading his troops in battle to victory over the numerically superior Herero forces.

Omaruru began life as a mission station in 1872 built by the Germany missionary Gottlieb Viehe. It became a local garrison town for the German military and in 1904, Hauptmann (Captain) Franke was the commander of 2 Company of Omaruru. He had orders to head for southern Namibia to assist in the Bondelswarts rebellion, leaving a token rear party to defend the garrison.

In the period that the soldiers had left Omaruru to the time that Hauptmann Franke and his troops arrived in Gibeon, a section of armed Herero soldiers were holding the Omaruru garrison under siege. Franke had been informed of the blockade via heliograph. Expecting to encounter Boer resistance against the German colonial presence on his arrival, he had to turn around and head back to his base to combat the Herero.

His force consisted of 7 officers, 2 doctors, 126 soldiers and 2 cannons. They covered over 400km in only 19 days, in what has been described many times as an epic march. They reached Omaruru on 4th February 1904. The Herero were lying in wait and greeted their enemy with volley after volley of gunfire.

Franke's and his troops fought back killing over 100 Herero soldiers. The German causalities were limited to 7. A final assault saw the end to the Herero resistance and they were driven from the huge stone block shelters used for cover. The siege ended as the Herero fled.

After the war the community of Omaruru erected a tower to commemorate the battleground and it was inaugurated on 4th February 1908. On November 12, 1914, Franke became commander of the Schutztruppe after the death of Joachim von Heydebreck. On 9th July 1915, Franke and his 2,166 men, surrendered to South African forces near Khorab. In August of that year, South African troops were in complete control of the entire German colony.

Franke left Southwest Africa in 1919 and retired in 1920 as a Major-General. The Khorab Memorial, 3km north-east of Otavi on the Tsumeb road marks the German surrender at Khorab and was proclaimed a national monument on 28th September 1973. The Franke House Museum is also in the town of Outjo.

The battlefield around Franke Tower was officially proclaimed a national monument on 21st April 1972. The tower was proclaimed a national monument on 15th August 1964.

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