It's 125 years since the shortest war in history started and finished… in just 38 minutes! The conflict, between Britain and the Sultanate of Zanzibar, took place in August 1896. Yet the bizarre episode wasn't the only unusual moment in military history. Here JAMES MOORE fires up the ultimate A-Z of the weirdest chapters in the history of warfare and reveals what happened during the zany episode in Zanzibar.
A is for… ANIMALS: From 1974-78 researcher Jane Goodall documented a war between two groups of chimpanzees in Gombe, Tanzania, involving apes crushing enemy skulls with rocks.
B is for… BOOZE: During a conflict between Moldova and breakaway Transnistria in the early 1990s some officers went drinking with the enemy each evening before carrying on fighting during the day.
C is for… CHEESE: In 1865 an Uruguayan ship that ran out of cannonballs defeated a Brazilian vessel by using balls of stale cheese instead, felling its mast. Two sailors were also killed by cheese "shrapnel".
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D is for… DOG: When his pooch strayed over the border in 1925 a Greek soldier went after it but was shot by Bulgarian forces. War broke out and 50 people were killed until diplomacy intervened.
E is for… EMUS: The Great Emu War of 1932 saw Aussie troops armed with machine guns attempt to kill thousands of the flightless birds after complaints from farmers. It failed and the emus thrived.
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F is for… FOOTBALL: Riots at a 1969 World Cup qualifier between El Salvador and Honduras sparked a five-day, inconclusive war between the two nations over immigration with 3,000 casualties.
G is for…GUANO: Spain was so keen to get its hands on the rich fertiliser from bird poo on Peru’s Chincha Islands that it went to war over them in 1864 – but ended up on the loo-sing side.
H is for… HUMP: The 40-year long Basus War was triggered in 494BC when a member of one Arabian tribe killed a camel belonging to a member of another.
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I is for… ISLES OF SCILLY: During the Civil War, Oliver Cromwell’s Parliamentarians allied with the Dutch who declared war on the islands after the Royalist fleet retreated there. The conflict officially lasted 335 years until 1986 when Holland sent an ambassador to sign a peace treaty.
J is for… JENKINS’ EAR: In 1731 captain Robert Jenkins had his ear cut off by Spanish officials, later used by Britain as the excuse for a nine-year conflict with Spain over trade in the Caribbean.
K is for… KETTLE: The Kettle War was the name given to a naval attack on the Netherlands ordered by Holy Roman Emperor Joseph II which failed when his flagship surrendered after a single shot from the only opposing Dutch ship, which hit a soup kettle on board.
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L is for… LIJAR: This Spanish village declared war on France in 1883 after King Alfonso XII was pelted in Paris. They called it off in 1976, without casualties, after a more successful visit by King Juan-Carlos.
M is for… MEIN KAMPF: During World War Two, Foyles’ London bookshop bomb-proofed itself by covering the roof with copies of Nazi leader Adolf Hitler’s bonkers book Mein Kampf.
N is for… NAVAL: A regiment of French cavalry pulled off a unique military victory in 1795 when they captured a Dutch fleet off the Netherlands that had become stuck in the frozen sea.
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O is for… OAKEN BUCKET: In 1325 the theft of a wooden bucket from a well in Bologna by people from Modena led to a war between the Italian cities involving 2,000 deaths. Modena won.
P is for… PIG: In 1859 an American settler shot a Brit’s pig on the disputed San Juan Island on the Canadian border.
Things escalated to the point where British and US fleets faced off before a diplomatic solution was finally reached. The porker became the only casualty.
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Q is for… QUIRKY: The Whisky War over who owns Hans Island near Greenland has seen Canada plant a flag and leave a bottle of whisky, while Denmark left a flag and schnapps.
R is for… ROBBERY: In 1838 a French pastry chef’s shop in Mexico was looted by soldiers. France demanded compensation and when Mexico didn’t pay the two nations went to war. Hundreds died.
S is for… STOOL: In 1900 a British governor of the Gold Coast demanded to sit on the sacred golden stool of Africa’s Ashanti people, sparking a war costing 3,000 lives and leading to annexation.
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T is for… TOILET BREAK: When Japanese soldier Shimura Kikujiro went missing outside Beijing on the night of July 7, 1937, it sparked conflict between his army and China. Yet it turned out he had just gone for a leak.
U is for… UFOS: The Battle of Los Angeles in 1942 saw anti-aircraft guns open fire on unidentified objects in the sky. Later claimed to be a false alarm, it resulted in five deaths from heart attacks and car crashes.
V is for… VAIN: In the 1860s Napoleon-obsessed Paraguay leader Francisco Solano Lopez launched a pointless war against Argentina, Brazil, and Uruguay costing 400,000 lives – including his own.
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W is for… WIDOW: The Battle of Widow McCormack’s Cabbage Patch was the name given to a skirmish between Irish revolutionaries and police at a farmhouse in 1848 that ended the uprising.
X is for… XXX: The name given to the operation of modifying Spitfires to carry tanks filled with beer to drop for Allied troops fighting in Normandy after D-Day in 1944.
Y is for… YIKES: In 1917 opposing German and Russian forces on the Eastern Front joined forces to fend off an attack by 50 wolves.
Z is for… ZANZIBAR: On August 27, 1896, Zanzibar’s Sultan Khalid took power in the British protectorate off East Africa and barricaded himself in his palace. The Royal Navy bombarded it, killing or wounding 500, sinking his yacht and setting light to his harem. Fire ceased in just 38 minutes. Only one British sailor was injured, while the Sultan fled.
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