In the late summer of 1914, the eyes of the world were fixed upon Europe as seemingly unstoppable German armies simultaneously marched eastwards and westwards subduing nations and forcing their armies to retreat. This was the beginning of an industrial war without precedent which would send shockwaves across the globe. This book, specially compiled by Leonaur’s editors from John Buchan’s excellent writings on the First World War, concentrates on the world beyond mainland Europe in the early months of the war. Readers will discover the naval battles of Heligoland Bight, Coronel, the Falkland Islands and Dogger Bank as the Imperial German Navy tested its mettle against the might of the Royal Navy. Here are accounts of German naval raiders such as the ‘Emden’ and the naval bombardments of British seaside towns. German and British colonial and regular troops clashed in East and West Africa and actions were fought on the coast of China and upon remote Pacific Islands. Disaffected Boers rose in rebellion in South Africa and Germany’s ally, the Ottoman Turkish Empire joined the fray making advances in Mesopotamia (modern Iraq) and towards the strategically vital Suez Canal in Egypt. In 1914 this was a conflict far removed from the familiar mud, wire and trenches that have become emblematic of the First World War. This is a highly recommended overview of the world at war created especially to mark the centenary of the outbreak of hostilities; it includes many illustrations, photographs and maps.
Leonaur editions are newly typeset and are not facsimiles; each title is available in softcover and hardback with dustjacket.
On 27th August, the Japanese took the first step by occupying as a base some of the small islands which cluster around the mouth of the harbour. From these they instituted a series of mine-sweeping operations, a wise precaution, for the Germans had relied much upon that peril of the seas. So thorough was the Japanese work that only one vessel of their fleet was mined during the siege. On 2nd September they landed troops at the northern base of the peninsula, their object being to cut off the fortress by a movement against it from the mainland. But the autumn rains, very heavy in Shantung, put a bar to this enterprise. All the rivers, which descended from the hills, rose in high flood, and spread out in lagoons over the coastlands.
General Kamio had to content himself with sending aeroplanes over the fortress, which dropped bombs successfully on the wireless station, the electric-power station, and on the ships in the harbour, and with an assault upon the railway station of Kiao-chau, at the head of the bay, which he took on 13th September. He was then some twenty-two miles from Tsing-tau itself, and had the railway line to aid his advance. By the 27th he had reached the chief of the outer defences of the place, Prince Heinrich Hill, and next day captured it without serious opposition. This gave him a gun position from which he could dominate all the inner forts, much as the fall of the trans-Nethe forts gave the Germans command over the inner lines of Antwerp.
On the 23rd, a small British force arrived from Wei-hei-wei to co-operate with the Japanese. It consisted of the 2nd battalion of the South Wales Borderers, and about half a battalion of the 36th Sikhs, and was under Brigadier-General Barnardiston, who commanded the British troops in North China. It landed at Laoshan Bay, on the seaward side of the peninsula, and, having only a short way to march, joined hands with the Japanese on 28th September, just after the capture of Prince Heinrich Hill. Since the floods were now falling, advance was easier, and the invaders were soon only five miles from Tsing-tau, and had drawn the cordon tight across the peninsula. German warships in the bay attempted to bombard the Japanese right, but were driven off by Japanese aeroplanes, which showed extraordinary boldness and skill during the whole operations.
Meanwhile a vigorous bombardment was going on from the Japanese squadron lying in the mouth of the harbour, and on 30th September a German counter-attack both by sea and land was quickly beaten off. Slowly General Kamio was coming to the conclusion that the enemy either did not mean to obey their Kaiser and fight to the last breath, or had very doubtful fighting ability. They were enormously wasteful of shells, which did not look as if they contemplated a long resistance. The Japanese general was convinced that a fierce assault was more desirable than a slow investment. But first he gave the non-combatants in Tsing-tau a chance to leave, and on 15th October a party of women and children and a number of Chinese were conducted through the Japanese lines.
General Kamio had now his big guns in position, and the bombardment began in earnest. He had practically no field artillery, but he had a heavy siege train of 140 guns, including six 11-inch howitzers, and a large number of 6-inch and 8-inch pieces. The Germans seem to have had nothing larger than 8-inch. The first general bombardment was from the sea, when considerable damage was done to the forts on Kaiser Hill and Iltis Hill. On the 31st of October, the birthday of the Emperor of Japan, the first land bombardment began. On that day most of the inner forts were silenced, and, as at Antwerp, the skies were black with the smoke of burning oil-tanks.
On 1st November, H.M.S. Triangle silenced the forts on Bismarck Hill, and presently only one fort, Huichuan, was left in action. Next day, the Austrian cruiser, Kaiserin Elizabeth, was sunk in the harbour, and the floating dock disappeared, having probably been blown up by the defenders. Meantime the army was pushing its way down the peninsula, driving back the German infantry, and making large captures of guns and prisoners. By the night of 6th November, the Allies were through the inner forts, with their trenches up to the edge of the last redoubts, and the outworks to east and west were taken during the night. Early on the morning of the 7th the hour had come for the final attack in mass.
That attack was never delivered. At six o’clock white flags fluttered from the central forts and from the tower of the Observatory. That day representatives of the two armies met, and at 7.30 in the evening Admiral Meyer Waldeck signed the terms at of capitulation. At ten on the morning of the 10th, the Germans formally transferred Tsing-tau to General Kamio, and Germany’s much-debated foothold on the continent of Asia had gone. The German casualties were heavy, and the survivors, nearly 3,000 in number, were sent as prisoners to Japan, Admiral Meyer Waldeck and his staff being allowed to retain their swords. The Japanese losses, out of a total of 22,980, were 236 killed and 1,282 wounded, and the British losses, out of a force of 1,500, were 12 killed and 61 wounded. In addition, Japan lost one third-class cruiser, the Takachiho, one third-class destroyer, the Shirotae, torpedo boat No. 23, and three minesweepers.
The capture of Tsing-tau, seventy-six days after the declaration of war, and little more than a month after the investment was complete, came as a surprise to Japan, who had made preparations for a struggle till Christmas, and to Germany, who had not realized that the fate which had befallen Namur and Maubeuge would, under similar circumstances, befall her own fortresses. General Kamio handled the expedition with perfect judgment, and provided brilliantly for co-operation between the sea and land forces. It was an achievement of which Japan might well be proud, for it was to her armies that Tsing-tau yielded, since, though the British contingent had done well, it was only one-fourteenth of the investing force. When General Barnardiston reached Tokio, he was given a popular reception, such as had never in the history of Japan been accorded to any stranger. It appeared that the Japanese had entered upon the war not for their own interests alone, and that they were mindful of the ties which bound them to their allies.