from ‘the War Illustrated Deluxe’ volume IV page 1178
'Britain's Conquest of the German Cameroon'

The War in the Colonies

from a British newsmagazine


Engrossed as we were in events nearer home—the grim hold of the line in France and Flanders, the momentous struggle of the three empires on the eastern front, and the stupendous Levantine war of forcing the Dardanelles,—the fact that Britain was still conducting two stern campaigns in Africa was apt to be overlooked.

The struggle for German South-West Africa, which culminated in General Botha's triumph, although it removed the German flag from a valuable territory of 322,450 square miles, was little more than half of the work to be accomplished before the "Kultur" menace was completely dispelled from Morocco to the Cape of Good Hope.


Germany Takes Territory After Agadir

The German Cameroon and East Africa put up a determined resistance, but the conquest of these two last Hohenzollern oversea possessions, especially the first, proceeded quietly with a good measure of progress. In fact, so successful were the operations in the Cameroon that the administration of the territory passed quite soon into the Allies' hands.

The fall, on June 10th, 1915 of Garua, one of the important towns of the Cameroon, and the place where most of the German army was concentrated, caused a closer interest to be taken in these remote Franco-British operations.

The Cameroon Protectorate is situated between British Nigeria and the French Congo. It has an area of 191,130 square miles, and in 1913 it numbered a population of about 2,540,000, consisting of Bantu and Sudan negroes, governed by some 1,900 whites, most of whom were German. Fertile soil abounds in the region of the coast, and vegetable productions abound in profusion.

It was the Agadir crisis of 1911, the loud warning note of German aggression, which brought the Cameroon into prominence. As a result of the subsequent treaty of November 4th, 1911, an exchange of territory was effected between French equatorial Africa and the adjacent German possession, ostensibly as a compensation for German recognition of French political supremacy over Morocco. By this rearrangement of frontiers Germany gained 107,270 square miles, and France 0,450. But the motive of the exchange for Germany was not so much a question of area as one of access to the important waterways of the. Ubangi and the Middle Congo.

Shortly after the declaration of war, an expedition to Yola and Garua was made, which was somewhat in the nature of a reconnaissance, but may be said to have been the opening of the Cameroon Campaign when, on August 25th, 1914, a British force crossed the Anglo-German frontier from Yola in Nigeria, and, getting into touch with the enemy, repulsed him with serious loss, subsequently occupying Tebe, which lies a little to the north of Garua.

Later on the British force advanced southwards, and on August 29th, 1914, captured one of the forts of Garua, but, being heavily counter-attacked, was compelled to withdraw to Nigeria, losing, amongst others, the Commandant (Colonel Maclear), Major Puckle, Captains Aubin, Stewart, Wickham, and Sherlock, and Lieutenant Brown.

Necessary Delay and Eventual Victory

No attempt was made to resume operations against this most important centre until the end of April, 1915, up to which time the enemy had eight months to strengthen his position. This was done not only by increased protection in the form of outer earthworks, pits, etc., but also by reinforcements of Germans who were removed from the Woermann liners and other ships which were in the Cameroon River at the outbreak of the war. Garua thus became for this and other reasons the principal German centre, and, in a few months, the bulk of her forces concentrated in this northern region.

Although occupying a strong position, the chances of their joining the Germans in the south became increasingly difficult, for an allied force, well equipped, in all probability would have intercepted them.

An important stage in the war in West Africa was now about to be reached, for a strong Franco-British force, under the command of a brigadier-general, commenced operations at Garua on May 31st. The action against the place presented great and various difficulties, particularly in regard to transport, Garua being situated far in the inteiior, and several hundred miles up the Benue River.

Garua itself being on high ground, it formed a great natural defence which had been strengthened against attack by a series of forts, pits, etc., intended to afford the garrison a last retreat. Around the fortifications, and for some distance, the ground was bare and marshy. After continuous bombardment, rifle and machine-gun fire, which lasted ten days, the Germans put up the white flag at 4 p.m. on Thursday, June loth, and at the same time asked for full honours of war, and twenty-four hours' armistice. To this request the General refused to accede. At 6.30 p.m. the enemy surrendered unconditionally, and the allied forces occupied the forts that night, having captured the forces, eleven machine-guns, six field-guns, a large quantity of shells, and small arms ammunition. On entering it was found to have been an exceedingly strong position, for not only was each fort shell-proof, with a clear field of fire for about a mile, but the whole was surrounded by barbed-wire lines for night firing, and several layers of deep pits with spear-heads pointing upwards, and accurate ranges on nearly every prominent tree.



Back to Index