West African Campaign (World War I)
||It has been suggested that some portions of this article be split into articles titled Togoland Campaign and Kamerun campaign. (February 2013)|
The West Africa Campaign of World War I consisted of two relatively small military operations to capture the German colonies in West Africa: Togoland, and Kamerun. Togoland was captured in a few weeks in 1914, but Kamerun resisted until February 1916.
The British Empire, with near total command of the world's oceans, had the power and resources to conquer the German colonies when the Great War started. The two German colonies in West Africa were recently acquired and not well defended. They were also surrounded on all sides by African colonies that belonged to their enemies, the United Kingdom, France and Belgium. On 22 August 1914 the Allies decided to mount a combined operation to capture the colonies, and agreed that it should be commanded by the British General, Charles Dobell.
This small colony located in present-day Togo was almost immediately conquered in 1914 by a military force from the British Gold Coast (modern-day Ghana) and a small force from French Dahomey (modern-day Benin). The colony had no official military forces, only around 700 paramilitaries, police, and border guards at the start of the war.
After the Allies' demand for the surrender of Togoland on August 6 was denied, British and French forces entered the colony on August 9. On 12 August British forces seized Lomé and most of the coast without facing any resistance. They then advanced northwards, following German forces that had withdrawn towards Kamina, a wireless station vital to communication between Germany, her navy, and the other African colonies. The Germans destroyed the railway bridges on the line to Kamina, slowing the British advance.
The first and only significant action throughout the invasion was at the Battle of Chra on August 22 between British and entrenched German forces attempting to stall the British advance to Kamina. British forces were halted by approximately 60 German and 500 native Togolese soldiers entrenched on the opposite bank of the Chra River. German forces held their line of defense for a two days until withdrawing further inland to Kamina. British forces had suffered 17% casualties or 23 killed and 52 wounded, while the Germans had only suffered 13.
The radio station at Kamina was demolished by the Germans on 24 August 1914. As the Allies converged on it the local German commander, Major Hans-Georg von Döring, surrendered three days later. British forces under Colonel Bryant found the wireless station at Kamina completely destroyed, and took the surrender of 200 German and native Togolese soldiers. All operations were over by 26 August. John Keegan identified the two Allied units as the West African Rifles and the Tirailleurs senegalais.
Kamerun (modern-day Cameroon and parts of what is now eastern Nigeria) had a garrison of about 1,000 German soldiers supported by about 3,000 African soldiers. Initially, the British attacked out of Nigeria following three different routes east into Kamerun. However, all three columns were defeated by a combination of the terrain, rough trails, and ambushes by the Germans. The French attacked south from Chad and captured Kusseri. Early in September, a Belgian-French force (mostly from the Belgian Congo) captured Limbe on the coast. With the aid of four British and French cruisers acting providing naval gunfire support, together with an improvised flotilla of costal and riverine craft, the Allies captured the colonial capital of Douala on 27 September 1914. The German garrison at Garoua fell to the British in June 1915.
The only major center of German resistance was now Yaounda (modern-day Yaoundé), but the Allies had to wait until the dry season before the terrain allowed them to renew the offensive. The Belgian-French forces followed the German-built railroad inland, beating off German counterattacks along the way. By November, Yaoundé was captured. Most of the surviving German soldiers retreated into Spanish Guinea (modern-day Equatorial Guinea), which was neutral territory. There the Spanish interned them for the duration of the war. The last German fort in Kamerun (at Mora) surrendered in February 1916.
- Gorges (1930)
- Strachan (2004) p.14
- Strachan (2004) p.17
- "The German Colony of Cameroon". Retrieved 18 September 2011.
- Sebald, Peter (1988). Togo 1884–1914. Berlin. p. 595.
- "Far From Home – The Fighting in Kamerun 1914–1916". Retrieved 18 September 2011.
- Moberly (1931) Military Operations. Togoland and the Cameroons, 1914–1916, p.426
- Erlikman, Vadim (2004). Poteri narodonaseleniia v XX veke : spravochnik. Moscow. ISBN 5-93165-107-1.
- Strachan (2004) p.16
- "The Soldier's Burden." The Soldier's Burden. Web. <http://www.kaiserscross.com/188001/300143.html>.
- "The Soldier's Burden." The Soldier's Burden. Web. <http://www.kaiserscross.com/188001/300143.html>
- Keegan, "World War I", p. 206
- Keegan, "World War I", p. 207
- Gorges E.H. (1930) The Great War in West Africa, Hutchinson & Co. Ltd., London; Naval & Military Press, Uckfield, 2004: ISBN 1-84574-115-3
- Moberly F.J. (1931) Togoland and the Cameroons 1914–1916, the official history, HMSO, London
- Paice, Edward (2007) Tip and Run: The Untold Tragedy of the Great War in Africa, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, London: ISBN 0-297-84709-0
- Strachan, Hew (2004) The First World War in Africa, Oxford University Press, Oxford: ISBN 978-0199257287
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