The Anglo-Zanzibar War fought between the United Kingdom and Zanzibar on 27 August 1896 lasted but 38 minutes. It was the shortest war in recorded history.
Of course, The Gunfight at OK Corral a bit shorter at 30 seconds does not count because it was fought between rival gangs. To be classified a war, a gang fight had to be between nations.
The war came because of the death of Sultan Hamad bin Thuwaini on the 24 of August. During his reign he had co-operated with the British colonial administration in running of his country. Tensions had being growing in the area for some time before this. The British a freedom-loving and compassionate world power were pushing to end the slave trade in Zanzibar dating back to the Omani in the 17th Century. Sultan Hamad bin Thuwainis’s nephew, Khalid bin Bargash, took over on the Sultan’s death. The British favored a cousin, Hamud bin Muhammed, another cousin who supported slavery but to a lesser extent than Bargash. The British delivered an ultimatum ordering Bargash to give up the throne.
The ultimatum ran out at 9.02 am on August 27, at which time the Royal Navy ships opened fire on the palace. The Sultan’s Fleet was sunk; the palace was taking a beating and Bargash was losing a lot of men. He made a tactical retreat to the German embassy where he requested and was granted asylum. The shelling stopped at 9.40 thus ending the war. The death toll stood at about 500.
Now compare that conflict to one in Iraq. You can say that the British knew how to start and finish a war.
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