'the Fall of Tsingtau'
the War in the Far East
told by Jefferson Jones, an American Civilian Eye Witness

With the Japanese in the Orient

from a British magazine : coverpage and photo-spread


This American witnessed the epoch-making events in the Far East, within the lines of the Japanese Army, through a permit granted by General Kamio, Commander of the Allied Forces at Tsingtau. He describes the events with the understanding of one who has resided for many years in Japan and China, asserting that "one of the most remarkable changes to be wrought in Christendom by the greatest of wars will be found, not in Europe or in Europe's dependencies, but in the Far East"; recalling the words of Napoleon, "There lies a sleeping China. Let him sleep: for when he moves he will move the world." He has recorded his observations in a volume entitled: "The Fall of Tsingtau," in which he describes the advance of the Japanese Army; the beginning of the siege; the fleet bombarding the city; the surrender. He also discusses analytically the political and economic situations.


Japanese artillery position during the siege


I — Story of the Conquered Teuton Fort

Scenes of havoc met the eyes of the Japanese staff officers when they entered the fallen forts of Tsingtau. With dynamite and nitro-glycerine the German defenders had destroyed the guns and demolished all that might be taken by the captors as trophies of war. Along the casemate walls of the forts still lay the German and Japanese soldiers who had been killed in the final assault, while the concrete forts themselves were just a mass of shale and twisted steel rods where dynamite or falling shells had done their work.

Into the forts the Japanese filed and, collecting all the German soldiers together in lots, marched them to the barbed-wire entanglements in the rear of the city and after a short rest took them to the foot of Prince Heinrich Berg, where a prison camp had been improvised. The German officers, however, through the courtesy of the Japanese commander, were allowed to remain in Tsingtau.

The courtesy of the Japanese, for which the Orient is already famous, received an excellent demonstration in the surrender of Tsingtau. General Kamio, commander-in- chief, realizing that to march his victorious troops through the city of Tsingtau would throw the residents into much confusion and disorder, made the direct surrender appear like a capitulation on terms. All German officers, including Governor-General Meyer- Waldeck, were allowed to go about Tsingtau at their freedom after the surrender, and General Kamio at once posted orders that only the Japanese staff officers would be allowed to enter the city for several days. Japanese pickets were placed along the roads outside of the city to see that this regulation was enforced.

For several days then, while the Japanese troops were quartered in Moltke and Bismarck Barracks in the rear of Tsingtau, and the British force was also in German barracks, the residents of Tsingtau were given free opportunity to recover from their besieged life without being ruffled by the sight of marching and quartered troops.

During that period between the surrender of the Tsingtau forts and November 16, when the British and Japanese expeditionary forces made their triumphal entry into the city, the Japanese officers busied themselves in the final preparations for the transfer of the German possessions into the hands of Dai Nippon. The rest of the troops spent the days in examining the Tsingtau forts and gradually the "whyfore" of their surrender was answered.

On Iltis Fort were mounted six twelve-centimeter guns, two of which had been captured from the French in the siege of Paris in 1871. On the left of this battery and toward the rear of the fort had been placed four twenty-eight-centimeter mortars, while two 10.5- centimeter guns cast in 1889, which had seen service in the siege of Taku in 1900, made up the remainder of the fort's equipment.

Bismarck Fort, to the left of Iltis, seemed to be the most strongly fortified of any of the Tsingtau defenses. Besides four twenty-eight-centimeter howitzers and two twenty-one- centimeter guns, it contained the Tsingtau battery of four fifteen-centimeter guns.

At Moltke Fort, on the bay side of the city, the German garrison had mounted two fifteen- centimeter guns stripped from the Austrian cruiser Kaiserin Elisabeth, a field battery of ten pieces, three field howitzers, and several small guns taken from the second-class German gun-boats and cruisers that had been allowed to be bottled up in the Bay of Kiaochow.

The two German forts which commanded the sea approaches were Huit-chien-huk and Tscha-nui-va. The first was equipped with two twenty-four-centimeter guns and three fifteen-centimeter guns, while the latter's equipment consisted of two twenty-one- centimeter guns which had been taken from the Chinese Taku forts in 1900.

The German garrison at Tsingtau at the opening of the war, knowing that their surrender was inevitable, had made all plans to keep as far as possible all trophies of war from falling into the enemy's hands after surrender. The result was that early on the morning of the 7th, after the Japanese infantry had gained the redoubt walls, all preparations were made by the garrison for destroying the guns.

The breech-block of each was wound with nitroglycerine and dynamite was placed in the cannons up to the muzzle edge. The white flag was the signal. A few minutes later, when the Japanese forces swarmed the forts, they found the place a mass of wreckage. Big twenty-four-centimeter guns were split in two as evenly and neatly as if they had been cut by a jack-knife, while one hundred or more yards distant could be found all that remained of the breech-block. The four twenty-eight-centimeter mortars on Iltis had been dynamited and just a mass of twisted steel and splintered plates remained.

On Bismarck and Moltke Forts, many of the guns had been backed in against the sandbag walls and dynamited on their carriages. The discharge had left the place scat- tered with the broken pieces of the carriages and split sandbags. The guns in the majority of cases had fallen down to the foot of the casemate walls. The explosions of the dynamite also appeared to have wrecked adjacent walls, for the concrete work about the gun-stands seemed to be so much shale. Exposed to sight were the steel pipes and wire used in the construction of the forts, all twisted and broken.

This desire to keep trophies of war from the hands of the enemy was not confined alone to guns. From the various post-offices German officials gathered the colony's issue of postage stamps and all were burned. Men had evidently been detailed to handle the storehouses, for all about them I found large cans of corned beef, sausages, milk, saurkraut and German delicacies opened and lying in heaps, their contents untouched.

All valuable papers in the vaults of Government buildings that contained military secrets or maps of fortifications throughout the Far East, were also made way with; in fact the German garrison left little that the Japanese could boast about, except the city of Tsingtau itself.

As officially given out by the War Office, the Japanese forces had a total of 142 guns on the firing line. They consisted of six 28-centimeter howitzers, 72 other siege guns of 15- and 24-centimeters, 18 mountain guns, 36 field pieces, and eight 4.7 and 6-inch guns of the marine detachment.

According to figures given me by General Kamio, the total active fighting force of the Japanese during the siege was 20,000 men, while the British expedition force consisted of 925 regulars, with a regiment of 300 Sikhs.

Opposing them was the German force of 4,500 men, more than 700 of whom were sick or wounded or captured before the actual siege started.

Among the criticisms directed against the defenders of Tsingtau, which I heard after the surrender, especially in the British camp, was that the Germans fired away great quantities of ammunition at the beginning of the bombardment of the fortifications so that, with their supply exhausted, an excuse for the surrender could be made. In proof of this they referred to the large number of shells which fell daily about the Japanese forces while they were getting the big siege guns into position. The estimate of "more than two thousand German shells in twelve hours' firing with no casualties to the Japanese or British forces," was further evidence given.


Japanese supply route and artillery position


II — The German Officer's Tale of the Siege

On my first trip into Tsingtau I met a German officer in the Prince Heinrich Hotel, who had taken part in the siege, and questioned him as to the truth of the statement.

"Maybe that is what they say, but the facts are the garrison had expected Tsingtau to fall sooner than it did. Our heavy artillery fire was not kept up for the purpose of throwing away our shells, — it would have been less dangerous to have dropped them in the bay, — but solely to do as much damage to the Japanese as possible before the assault on the fortifications could be made. We regulated our fire with the one purpose of covering the country with shells before they had a chance to get under cover. When they attempted to mount their siege guns at the start of the bombardment their forces were exposed to us. We could see their ammunition columns and supply wagons rolling up on open roads and, by spreading our fire about the valley, we were attempting solely to postpone the fall of Tsingtau as much as possible by hindering the allied forces in their work."

The officer then went on to tell me of the ruse Lieutenant Trendel, manager of the Wagon-Lits Hotel at Peking, who took part in the siege, played on the Japanese. Trendel was in command of a battery of six old nine-centimeter ships' guns which were in an exposed position on a ridge near Iltis Fort. This battery received a fire from both the ship and land guns, and the men could be seen on the first day of the bombardment building bomb-proofs in the dust and smoke from exploding shells.

In the night Leiutenant Trendel put up wooden guns, roughly shaped from beams, at a distance of two hundred yards from his own guns. In the morning, he exploded powder near them to give an appearance of firing from them. By this ruse he diverted the Japanese fire and saved all his men, dynamiting his guns before the surrender.

Governor-General Waldeck, after the surrender, made the following statement as to the bombardment: —

The combatant force at Tsingtau did not amount to more than forty-five hundred. The permanent garrison consisted of eighteen hundred men nominally, but was, in reality, about two hundred short. Some of those under arms were mere boys. Each fort was defended by about two hundred men.

The Tsingtau guns were mostly weapons captured from the Boxers during their rebellion, or trophies of the Franco-German War, and were no match for modern arms. The Huichuan and Bismarck Forts, however, had some modern pieces. Altogether there were, for the defense, about sixty guns and a hundred machine guns.

The Iltis fort was guarded by sixty men. The Japanese in their assault charged up under a hot fire as if unconscious of their danger, and gained the position before the defenders could call reinforcements.

The Bismarck and Moltke Forts were also taken by a charge, but for the most part the Japanese conducted their attack under cover of their trenches, and concealed themselves so well that the most searching German fire could not stop their advance. At length the supply of ammunition ran out, and further defense was futile. I thought the Japanese casualties would be very heavy, as they fought bravely and charged desperately, and I estimated their loss at five to six thousand. I have been astonished to learn that the loss in killed and wounded amounts to only seventeen hundred. They certainly showed remarkable skill in taking cover.

Tsingtau was not an ideal fortification, such as Antwerp. Strictly speaking, it was merely a defended position. As possible enemies in the Far East, Germany had calculated only on England, France and Russia. It was quite unexpected that the blow would come from so good a friend as Japan.

The fire from the Japanese squadron was not so furious as to cause any great inconvenience, except once when a shell landed in the Huichan Point Fort, killed thirteen and severely wounded three. In respect of accuracy of range the fire of the British cruiser Triumph was inferior to that of Japanese ships. The land fire, however, was terrible. A perfect rain of shells fell on the Bismarck, Iltis, and Hsiaochau Forts, and the central batteries suffered severely. One of them received as many as a hundred shells, and it was death to leave the trenches for an instant.

Two days after the surrender I was able to get through the picket line thrown about the rear of the city of Tsingtau, and could observe better just what damage had been done to the city during the seven days of bombardment.


the victorious Japanese general Kami receiving honors from the Mikado


Ill — War's Typhoon in the City

The city appeared as if a typhoon had passed through it. Its wide asphalt and macadamized streets, fronted by beautiful four- and five-story buildings of German architecture, were vacant. Giant shells, some three feet long and a foot in diameter, were lying about on side-walk and street still unexploded. Trees, splintered at their bases, lay toppled over in the avenues. Windows in the houses were shattered, while gaunt holes in the sides of buildings, where shells had torn their way, made the residence blocks appear to be gasping for air.

Out in the harbor could be seen the spars of the Rickmers and two or three other German freighters, which had been sunk at the opening of hostilities about the city, while farther out in the channel was the grave of the Austrian cruiser, Kaiserin Elisabeth, which had been sunk by the Germans.

The whole scene seemed one of devastation. Streets deserted of people, show-fronts of stores completely gone, as was also the merchandise, harbors deserted of ships, and not even a sign of a ricksha to remind you of the Orient.

Such was Tsingtau as I first saw it two days after its surrender. But for the continual sight of the Rising Sun flag flapping from every peak in the rear of the city, as well as from every Government building, and its message of "occupied," one would have thought Tsingtau a city deserted.


scenes of the devastation to Tsing-tao forts


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