Fort Zombe – Zombe, Zambia - Atlas Obscura

Zombe, Zambia

Fort Zombe

The ruins of a massive World War I fort overlook the border between Zambia and Tanzania.  

Stretches of stone spill across a hill overlooking both Zambia and Tanzania. It’s a remnant of Fort Zombe, one of the area’s most significant fortifications built during World War I. 

During World War I, British forces in Zambia (then Northern Rhodesia) had to defend their border with Tanzania (then German East Africa). The fort was constructed between 1917 and 1918, when the war in Africa was intensifying. It was built to give the British troops the ability to keep an eye out for any German advances.

The site itself its surrounded by an outside enclosure measuring just over one mile (approximately two kilometers) all around. Today, this outer stone wall has collapsed, but it was reported to be about 13 feet (four meters) high and very thick.

Along the outside enclosure are small structures that appear to have been sniper points. Inside the outer wall are other structures, including those believed to have been bunkers, sleeping quarters, and storage spaces for food and weapons.

Also the top of the hill, approximately 330 feet (about 100 meters) from inside fortifications, are the remains of a gravesite reported by the local villagers to have held the remains of the last soldier killed in Zambia during the war. The grave was reportedly exhumed by “foreigners” in the 1980s, and the modern remains include a concrete slab reading “erected by E P Chesnaye, est dist comm., Abercorn” (Abercorn was the colonial-era name of Mbala).

At the foot of the hill is a Y-shaped trench that protects the water source for the fort. Throughout the site, it’s still possible to find artifacts of the occupation, including food tins and bottles. Besides the history of the site, the location provides beautiful views of the surrounding valleys and mountains into Tanzania.

Know Before You Go

To visit the site, it is necessary to ask permission from Chief Zombe. The Chief's palace is located in Zombe village, approximately nine miles (15 kilometers) north of Mbala along the Mbala-Kasesha road. Any of the villagers will be able to direct you to the palace.

Once at the palace (a regular-sized house), you must then greet the Chief and ask permission to visit the fort. A small gift (50-100 Zambian Kwatcha) is appropriate. He will either take you to the fort himself or have someone bring you there. For information regarding the fort, it is best to visit the Moto Moto Museum in Mbala and ask one of the staff there to explain about the fort.

Community Discussion
  • "THE FIRST WORLD WAR FORTIFICATIONS IN MBALA," by Mary Mbewe-Assistant Keeper-History