from ‘The Great War’ vol. 3, edited by H.W. Wilson, Chapter 50
'the Story of Tsingtau'
by F. A. McKenzie,
Author of "From Tokyo to Tiflis," "The Unveiled East," etc.

Japan's Intervention in the Great War

Japanese troops storming a fort in Tsing-Tau


Facts Behind the Ultimatum to Germany—How the Japanese People Nursed their Wrongs and Prepared for Reprisals—Rise of the City of Tsingtau, " The Brighton of the Far East "—Terms of the Ultimatum—The Imperial Rescript—Japanese Moderation— Strength and Weakness of the Japanese Army—The Kaiser's Message: " Defend to the Last Man "—Chinese Coolies Pressed into German Service—Combined Naval and Military Operations—Perils of Mine-Sweeping— Position of China—Landing of the British Force under General Barnardiston—A British Officer's Impressions of Trench Work—The Bombardment—Experiences of Civilians—The Fall of Tsingtau—Rejoicings in Japan—Congratulatory Messages— Germany's Threat of Vengeance—General Kamio's Appointment—The British General in Tokyo—Work of the Japanese Navy.


German volunteer force in Tsing-Tau


Early in August, 1914, before the actual outbreak of war, the Japanese Government announced that it was prepared to do its part to aid Great Britain, as laid down in the Anglo-Japanese Alliance. The Japanese Army and Navy made ready, and on August 15th an ultimatum was presented to Germany requiring her withdrawal from the Far East. No reply being received, war was declared, and a Japanese expedition set out to capture the German protectorate of Kiao-chau, in China.

In the days to come, when the world has reshaped itself under its new conditions, historians may well regard this Japanese intervention as one of the vital points in the struggle of the nations. Its results will be as far-reaching in Asia as will be the overthrow of German militarism in Europe. To understand its real meaning and purpose it is necessary to go back for a few years in the history of the Far East.

Less than half a century ago Japan was a mediaeval land. For hundreds of years her people had shut themselves altogether apart from foreigners. When at last Commodore Perry, the American naval officer, broke down the barriers of exclusion, Europeans were still regarded with suspicion and distrust. Had anyone foretold in 1871,

when Germany concluded her triumphant peace with France, that in the years to come Japan would humiliate and defeat the forces of Germany, it would have seemed as fantastic as if anyone to-day were to say that fifty years hence the South Sea Islanders would be in a position to attack and defeat Great Britain.

Once the Japanese people came in contact with the West they were clever enough to realise that their civilisation could not stand before ours, any more than men with arrows and spears can fight Maxim guns. They set themselves to learn from Europe and America. At first the West refused to take them seriously. When Gilbert wished to pick a land of absurdity and fantasy he selected Japan, and his generation laughed with him at the drolleries of "The Mikado." Europe heard of Japan modernising her Army, buying a Navy, and hiring distinguished men to teach her people the arts of peace and war. But it was not until 1894-5 that the world began to realise what all this meant. In 1894 Japan declared war upon China. Men expected the Mikado and his people to be swallowed up like a mouthful by the fierce and hungry Chinese giant. In place of that, the Japanese Navy wiped out the Chinese Fleet, and the Japanese armies defeated the great Chinese hosts with a celerity and a precision which few European troops could have equalled and none surpassed. China was glad to make peace on terms dictated by Japan herself, paying an indemnity of two hundred million taels (thirty-three millions sterling) and handing over large sections of territory to Japan, including the south of Manchuria, Port Arthur, and the great island of Formosa.

In the very hour of Japan's triumph, Russia, France, and Germany intervened and robbed her of the fruits of victory. They sent their warships to the Yellow Sea, cleared them for action, and advised her "in the interests of peace" to restore the territory she had taken on the Chinese mainland. They refused to allow her to retain the great fortress of Port Arthur, which she had captured after a brilliant siege. The people of Japan were furious, but the Japanese Government recognised that to risk a war with Russia, Germany, and France would be to invite its own destruction. It gave way, but it gave way reluctantly, bitterly, and resolute on revenge.

Great Britain had refused to join the three Powers in coercing Japan, although they did their utmost to persuade her. Germany and her partners defended their action on the plea that they were guarding the integrity of China. They were soon to prove the insincerity of their claim. Two years afterwards the Germans found an excuse in the murder of some German missionaries in Shantung to demand territory for themselves. A German force in Shantung was landed in China, and Prince Henry of Prussia was sent to the Far East with a fleet. Germany put forward a series of demands, of which the chief was the occupation of Kiao-chau and the recognition of Shantung as a German sphere of influence. Everyone, even in Germany itself, recognised that the plea of inflicting punishment for the murder of the missionaries was merely an excuse to obtain a foothold in China. The German Press frankly declared that it was necessary for the German Fleet to secure a Chinese Gibraltar and for German commerce to have a Chinese Hamburg. The town, harbour, and district of Kiao-chau were formally transferred to Germany on a ninety-nine years' lease in March, 1898, and were made a German protectorate. Shortly afterwards Russia took possession of the very fortress of Port Arthur from which she and her allies had ousted Japan.

The Japanese people nursed their wrongs. They increased their fighting forces and entered into a formal alliance with Great Britain, the Power which had refused to join the others in despoiling them. In 1904-5 they took their revenge against Russia, defeated her armies, sank her fleet, and wrested Port Arthur from her. They still had a score to pay off against Germany. Their statesmen believed that the real hand in the operations against them' after the Chinese War was the Kaiser himself. Little was said. A new policy of friendship was adopted towards Russia, and Japan conserved her resources and made ready for the next struggle.

Germans regarded the seizure of Kiao-chau by their Government with great satisfaction. The spot was carefully chosen. There was a good harbour, with an entrance about two miles wide, which could be well defended from the high hills around. The whole protectorate had an area of about two hundred miles. It was a natural outlet for the trade of Shantung, one of the richest provinces in China. The seizure of Kiao-chau was among the first moves in the new policy of Imperial world- expansion adopted by the German Government. Men who had dreamed of a great German Empire, rivalling in extent the British Empire, now came to the fore. The occupation of this Chinese port was made an excuse for building a larger navy. The benefits that would be reaped from it were the subject of thousands of articles and speeches throughout Germany. In other words, when Germany seized Kiao-chau she set out on the road that led her finally to war with Great Britain.

Everything was clone to make Kiao-chau an example of what Germany could accomplish in Imperial colonisation. It was placed under the command of the German Navy and vast sums were spent on it each year. It became the headquarters of an important group of Chinese railways and the centre for spreading German ideas, German authority, and German products throughout the Far East. The little old town of Kiao-chau itself, on the inside of the bay, was made secondary to Tsingtau, a modern city which the Germans erected at the harbour mouth. Tsingtau became one of the show places of China. It was a delightful holiday resort, with fine bathing sands, and was known as the " Brighton of the Far East." It was kept distinctively European. Poorer class Chinese were not allowed to stay in it at nights, but had to go beyond the city limits. The houses were in European style. All the luxuries of civilisation abounded, from the best hotel in Asia to model schools. The place was in excellent sanitary condition, a great gain in Asia; it had electric light and pure water; there were—as in every white settlement in the Far East—good clubs. The trade of Tsingtau grew by leaps and bounds. Factories and works began to arise. The harbour was improved, with breakwaters and dry docks, repairing yards, floating docks, and as good a mechanical equipment for the Joading and unloading of ships as could be found east of Suez. The bare hills around the city were planted with trees, •ind nursery establishments flourished, sending trees and bushes by the thousand throughout China.

In the early summer of 1914 the Germans were very Proud of what they had done at Tsingtau. Here was a model city, with wide streets, fine public buildings, abundant gardens, and comfortable houses. Tsingtau had been built on a system. It was as orderly, as exact as mechanically perfect as any new town in Germany itself. Above all the place was a fortress. It was under the command of a naval governor, Captain Meyer-Waldeck, and the chance visitor was almost overwhelmed by the numbers of officers everywhere. Every second man one met in certain circles had his rank— kommandant or hauptmann, intendant or oberleutenant, or the like. There were two strong forts, called after the Kaiser and Bismarck, on the hills overlooking and commanding the city. Bomb-proof batteries and concealed entrenchments abounded, making the place a fortified zone. The Germans claimed afterwards — apparently correctly—that apart from the two main forts, many of the gun positions held only weapons of an older type. In addition to the land fortifications, there were naval works, and there were almost always several warships in the harbour.

When Great Britain declared war against Germany, Japan realised that her hour for vengeance had come. The Japanese ultimatum was presented to Germany on August 15th, demanding the immediate withdrawal of German warships from Chinese waters, and the handing over to Japan of the complete territory of Kiao- chau for eventual restoration to China. The Japanese, as though to remind Germany that they had not forgotten past wrongs, drew up their note in exactly the same style and with the same phraseology as the note delivered to Japan by the three Powers in 1895.

The text of the ultimatum was as follows:

We consider it highly important and necessary in the present situation to take measures to remove the causes of all disturbance of peace in the Far East, and to safeguard general interests as contemplated in the agreement of alliance between Japan and Great Britain.

In order to secure firm and enduring peace in Eastern Asia, the establishment of which is the aim of the agreement, the Japanese Government sincerely believes it to be its duty to give advice to the German Government to carry out the following two propositions:

1. To withdraw immediately from Japanese and Chinese waters the German warships and armed vessels of all kinds, and to disarm at once those which cannot be withdrawn.

2. To deliver on a date not later than September 15th to the Japanese authorities, without condition or compensation, the entire leased territory of Kiao-chau, with a view to the eventual restoration of the same to China.

The Japanese Government announces at the same time that in the event of its not receiving by noon on August 23rd an answer from the German Government signifying unconditional acceptance of the above advice offered by the Japanese Government, Japan will be compelled to take such action as it may deem necessary to meet the situation.


The intervention of Japan in the war created special problems for Great Britain. For some years the commercial and political policy of Japan has been a source of uneasiness to the British community in China, and to the people of Australia, New Zealand, and Western Canada. . A strong anti-Japanese sentiment has developed in recent years in Western America. It was feared that the entry of Japan into the fighting ranks might be used to alienate American sympathy from the Allies, and to kill the ardour of the Canadian and Australasian peoples for the war. It was recognised that German propagandists might use it to inflame fears of Japan forcing herself to a place where she could despoil China and dictate the future of the Far East. To lessen such alarms the British Government made a formal statement, soon after the ultimatum was issued, that Great Britain and Japan had been in communication with each other, and were of opinion that it was necessary for each to take action to protect the general interests in the Far East contemplated by the Anglo-Japanese Alliance, keeping specially in view the independence and integrity of China. "It is understood," the official communication continued, "that the action of Japan will not extend to the Pacific Ocean beyond the China Seas, except in so far as it may be necessary to protect Japanese shipping lines in the Pacific, nor beyond Asiatic waters westward of the China Seas, nor to any foreign territory except territory in German occupation on the continent of Eastern Asia." This British declaration did much to allay uneasiness, particularly in the United States. Washington had confidence in the word of Great Britain.

At the expiration of the time given in the ultimatum, no reply having been received, war was declared. The Imperial Rescript declaring war was an interesting document. It has been summarised already (see Vol. II., p. 72), but may be given here in extenso:

"We, by the Grace of Heaven, Emperor of Japan, on the throne occupied by the same Dynasty from time immemorial, do hereby make the following proclamation to all Our loyal and brave subjects.

"We hereby declare war against Germany and We command Our Army and Navy to carry on hostilities against that Empire with all their strength, and We also command all Our competent authorities to make every effort in pursuance of their respective duties to attain the national aim within the limit of the law of nations.

"Since the outbreak of the present war in Europe, the calamitous effect of which We view with grave concern, We, on our part, have entertained hopes of preserving the peace of the Far East by the maintenance of strict neutrality, but the action of Germany has at length compelled Great Britain, Our Ally, to open hostilities against that country, and Germany is at Kiao-chau, its leased territory in China, busy with warlike preparations, while her armed vessels, cruising the seas of Eastern Asia, are threatening Our commerce and that of Our Ally. The peace of the Far East is thus in jeopardy.

"Accordingly, Our Government, and that of His Britannic Majesty, after a full and frank communication with each other, agreed to take such measures as may be necessary for the protection of the general interests contemplated in the Agree- ment of Alliance, and We on Our part, being desirous to attain that object by peaceful means, commanded Our Government to offer, with sincerity, an advice to the Imperial German Government. By the last day appointed for the purpose, however, Our Government failed to receive an answer accepting their advice.

"It is with profound regret that We, in spite of Our ardent devotion to the cause of peace, are thus compelled to declare war, especially at this early period of Our reign and while we are still in mourning for Our lamented Mother.

"It is Our earnest wish that, by the loyalty and valour of Our faithful subjects, peace may soon be restored and the glory of the Empire be enhanced."


The Japanese people behaved at the opening of the war with the greatest correctness and moderation. There were few displays of noisy patriotism. Germans living in Japan were left unmolested. Immediately the ultimatum was issued, every Japanese subject in Germany itself was arrested and kept in prison, the German Government explaining that this was done for their protection. The Japanese Government money deposited in the Deutsche Bank in Berlin was seized. The Japanese attempted no reprisals. German money was untouched and German subjects walked freely about Japan. The German Ambassador in Tokyo evidently expected' that his Embassy might be attacked by a mob, as the British Embassy in Berlin was attacked by Germans. His fears only made him seem somewhat ridiculous. Instructions were issued that German subjects in Japan were not to be injured in any way so long as they conducted themselves properly. The people of Tokyo were informed by the chief of police that although the two Governments had entered into hostilities for good reasons, the people individually were not to cultivate animosity, but were to treat the Germans who chose to continue among them with kindness. The German Ambassador remained in Tokyo until August 30th, when he sailed away with his staff and other officials. A number of Germans had left Japan previously to join the defenders at Tsingtau. A certain number of others elected to live on in Japan itself, and were allowed to continue their work there. "Of twenty-four German teachers in Government employ," says one writer, "only three left to join the colours at Tsingtau. Over fifty German teachers remained in private employ, and no students or classes showed disrespect or turbulence. No German property was injured, no German molested. No one's German governess, valet, or employee of any kind was interfered with or imprisoned. Germans naively wrote their names in the lists for tennis tournaments, unconscious of the fact that not a British woman or child would tread the same court with them."

The Japanese plan of campaign was twofold—to drive the German warships from Eastern waters and to capture Tsingtau. The latter would give the Army once more an opportunity to prove its mettle.

The Japanese Army had showed its right, in the operations during the Boxer trouble in 1900 and in the war against Russia in 1904-5, to rank among the great armies of the world. The bravoes and fighting men who rallied around the clan chiefs in the middle of the nineteenth century, the heroes with their two-handed swords, the men in armour, the picturesque Oriental warriors with bows and arrows, disappeared long ago as completely as though they had never existed. But the spirit of supreme courage, of personal discipline, of self-sacrifice, and of unquestioning obedience to superiors, the loyalty of the clansmen for their chiefs, the splendid simplicity of the life of the Samurai— all these factors have gone to the making and the strengthening of Japan's modern Army. Strong in numbers, up to date in equipment, keen in professional zeal, the Japanese Army reveals in marked fashion both the strength and the weakness of the nation. Its routine side, its armament, transport, uniforms, medical service, are models of their kind. Every military movement is carried out with the mechanical precision of a perfect machine. The individual soldier has the ideal spirit for a fighting man. He is full of initiative and exceedingly brave. The retention of the old clan spirit maintains a friendly rivalry between different regiments, which often leads the men to accomplish the apparently impossible. The whole Army is fired with an intense, burning patriotism. The weak points of the Army are twofold. The first is the lack of good cavalry, a lack due mainly to Japan being a rice-growing country and consequently unsuitable for much hard riding. The second and more serious drawback of the Japanese Army is a certain lack of boldness in the higher generalship. The Japanese soldier individually is willing to take any risks; the Japanese general plans above all things to ensure the safety of his operations.


German naval infantry in Tsing-Tau


At the first sign of war orders were issued for all German reservists in the Far East to report themselves at Tsingtau. Not all of them obeyed. Many women and children left, and before the final bombardment the remainder were sent out of the place, and very few civilians remained. The garrison numbered between 5,000 and 6,000 men, all told, including the new arrivals and the crews of some gunboats and destroyers in the harbour. The position had been planned more for defence to Tsingtau against sea attack than against land attack, and the German authorities afterwards admitted that they -had not anticipated hostile Japanese action. The Kaiser sent messages bidding the place defend itself to the last. "God be with you," was his last message. "I shall bear you in remembrance in the imminent hard struggle. Defend to the last man."

The garrison prepared to obey orders. Partial reports received in Europe immediately after the surrender caused some doubts to be cast at first on the stubbornness of the defence. Europe understood the place to be much stronger than it actually was,' and was surprised at the briefness of its resistance. But, as the facts became better known, it was seen that the Tsingtau garrison defenders were not lacking in courage. They were overwhelmed by superior force, superior numbers, and superior artillery. That, however, is anticipating.

The entire waters for a radius of eight miles around the place were thoroughly mined. All tall structures in the protectorate which might afford assistance to an attacking fleet by giving them sighting-points were dynamited. The railway bridge at the boundary of the German territory was blown up, and all houses or woods offering shelter to an enemy approaching from the land side were razed to the ground. Feverish work was begun on three lines of defence works. Thousands of Chinese coolies were pressed into service and set to-work digging fresh emplacements and strengthening old ones. The countryside was mined. Barbed-wire entanglements were erected at many spots and were attached to the local electric works, so that they could be charged with fatal current whenever necessary. The ladies turned the houses into hospitals and made ready to nurse the wounded. When the Japanese called for the surrender of the place the Governor, Captain Meyer-Waldeck, replied: "Never shall we surrender the smallest bit of ground over which the German flag is flying. From this place we shall not retreat. If the enemy wants Tsingtau he must come and fetch it."

The Japanese professed to look upon the order of the Kaiser to the garrison to defend itself to the last as inhuman, although doubtless they would have acted in the same way in similar circumstances. They let it be known at the start that they did not propose to make any spectacular assaults upon the town, such as those which caused such heavy losses at Port Arthur. The operations against Tsingtau were to be slow, gradual, cautious, and were to be carried out with a view of minimum loss to either side.

The Japanese were willing, and it is believed desired, to undertake the fighting against Tsingtau by themselves, but it was thought better that the operations should be carried out by a combined Japanese-British force. Two British vessels, the battleship Triumph and the destroyer Usk, shared in the sea fighting in co-operation with a number of Japanese ships. The Japanese expeditionary force numbered 22,890 officers and men and 142 guns. It was under the command of Lieutenant- General Kamio, with Major-General Yamanashi as Chief of Staff. The force was mainly composed of the 18th Division, the 29th Brigade of Infantry, the Siege Artillery Corps, Marine Artillery, and a Flying Corps. The British force under Brigadier- General Nathaniel W. Barnardiston, M.V.O., commander of the British troops in North China, included 910 South Wales Borderers and 450 men of the 36th Sikhs.

The day that the ultimatum expired the Japanese were ready to advance upon Tsingtau. The blockading fleet took up position on August 25th, and a blockade of the coast was declared as from August 27th. It was hoped to bottle up the German fleet in the harbour, but some of the ships slipped out. Several vessels, however, were left behind, including five gunboats, a destroyer, and a minelayer. The Austrian light cruiser Kaiserin Elisabeth was ordered to join the force at Tsingtau, and succeeded in doing so.

The first task of the attackers was to clear the seas of mines in order that the allied ships might approach. A number of Japanese women shell-divers from the province of Ise begged that they might be permitted to join in the work of mine-searching. These women, who are accustomed to stay for some minutes under water while searching for pearls, could undoubtedly have accomplished good work. But Japan is not the land of the New Woman, and the offer was emphatically and instantly rejected. The mine-clearing was done in much the same way as mine-clearing around the British coast, the waters being swept by vessels moving in pairs some three hundred yards apart and pulling thick wire ropes stretched between them, wire ropes which sweep the waters and indicate, if they do not instantly explode, any mine on their path. Work like this is among the most dangerous known in modern war, and before Kiao-chau Bay, as around the North Sea, many a mine-sweeper paid the price of the search with his own life. The danger of the work made it the more attractive to many Japanese, and the crew of one boat, when applying to be engaged, wrote the letter in their own blood, as a sign of their resolution.

The early operations of the fleet were greatly hampered by the minefields. The Japanese suffered some losses in attempting to get near the coast, and two torpedo- boats and one cruiser were unofficially reported as blown up or sunk. When, however, the ships got within reasonable range they maintained a constant fire on the forts and on some outlying redoubts. People inside Tsingtau during the siege declared that most of the ships' fire was ineffective because the great distance — about nine miles— at which the ships mainly lay prevented good marksmanship. This criticism is not altogether borne out, however, by some of the known facts. The naval guns succeeded in destroying a 4 in. gun on the fortification at Mount litis, killing most of its crew. It was reported during the siege that the Triumph put the Bismarck fort out of the fight with seven well-directed shells.

The Japanese expeditionary force landed at Laichow Bay, to the north of the Shantung Peninsula, and advanced through Chinese territory on to Kiao-chau. Their progress was exceedingly difficult owing to phenomenal floods—heavier, it was said, than Shantung had known for sixty years. The floods hindered the landing of the heavy guns and supplies, and made it impossible to move them forward quickly. They were bad also for the Germans, for they filled their trenches, rendered many of their mines useless, and destroyed much of the results of their work of careful preparation.

Laichow is Chinese territory, and is therefore nominally neutral. The Japanese, however, knowing that China was in no position to resist, swept Chinese neutrality on one side. Their troops advanced to the town of Weihsien, and from there spread through a large part of the province, even taking possession of the town of Tsinan-fu. They seized the Shantung Railway, and dealt with a large part of the Chinese province as though it were conquered territory occupied and held by their troops. Yuan Shi-kai, the Chinese President, and his Cabinet were powerless to do anything else than protest. They consented to the Japanese control of the railway between Weihsien and Tsinan-fu, but declared themselves opposed to any occupation of Tsinan-fu Station itself. When Tsinan-fu was occupied, despite the objection, the Chinese Cabinet requested Japan to withdraw her troops. Japan took no notice. Chinese telegraph and post-offices were taken over; Chinese military establishments were used for Japanese soldiers; armed guards were placed at every railway-station.

The German Government now turned on the unhappy Chinese, and declared that since they had allowed their territory to be used against them, Germany would consider herself free to deal as she pleased with China at the end of the war. The Germans threw out scouting parties at various points beyond Tsingtau in order to discover the Japanese approach. The Japanese advance guard at times scarce succeeded in marching eight miles a day. Streams were swollen to torrents impossible to cross; fields were turned into seas of mud; there was nothing to do but to wait for a few days. By September 13th, however, the Japanese scouts reached and attacked the railway-station of the little town of Kiao-chau itself, twenty-two miles from Tsingtau. Japanese aeroplanes began to soar over the German positions. Day after day they dropped bombs on the fortifications, the electric-light works, and the harbour.


Japanese siege-gun in action


A battle started on September 26th. Guns were hurried into position, and a very heavy bombardment opened on the German front. Three Japanese warships —the Suwo, Iwami, and Tango—assisted by the British battleship Triumph, bombarded Tsingtau from the sea, and then came an advance on land. The Japanese set themselves to clear the outer works of Tsingtau, and completely succeeded. Point after point was stormed. Two gunboats in the harbour—the Jaguar and the Kaiserin Elisabeth—poured shell fire on the Japanese troops as they rushed forward. At one or two points the Japanese were caught by heavy machine-gun fire, and in one case, according to German accounts, a large body of them were swept down as they came unexpectedly under enfilading fire. The Germans estimated the Japanese loss that day at a thousand, an absurdly excessive estimate, as was proved by the total casualties later. By the morning of the 28th the Germans had been driven right into their inner fortified position in Tsingtau, behind the line of hill forts. Here it was that they were to make their real defence on a comparatively small peninsula, roughly triangular in shape, with the sea on one side, Kiao-chau Bay on the other, and the land on the third, their defences centring around the Moltke, Bismarck, and litis Hills.

On September 30th the Germans made a desperate attempt to drive the Japanese back, attacking from land, sea, and air. Their effort was altogether vain. Their troops were driven in, one of their destroyers was sunk, and it was clear that they were completely held. The Japanese were now content to wait for a few days while some of their heaviest siege-artillery was brought up into position. At the first approach of the Japanese the Germans opened a very heavy artillery fire which was maintained day after day. Occasionally a Japanese position was located by means of the German aeroplanes, and was promptly bombarded. But much of the gun fire was mere aimless shooting. Every independent observer agreed that the big-gun ammunition was thrown away in the most reckless and careless fashion. Thus in twenty-four hours alone, early in October, the forts on the three hills fired 2,015 shells, and correspondents with the Japanese force declare that the entire firing during that twenty-four hours "inflicted no damage on the Japanese whatever. As a waste of ammunition is difficult to explain, and undoubtedly was a leading factor in the early surrender of the place, for before many days were over the shells for many of the guns ran short. The besiegers noticed in the second week of October that artillery fire fell off in surprising fashion; some forts that had formerly been keeping up an almost incessant bombardment now allowed hours to go by without a single shot. One battery of guns in particular, that had specially annoyed the Japanese, did not fire a single shot for three days. The attackers not unnaturally imagined that this was some trick of war on the part of the Germans, calculated to trap them.

A story was told in China early in October that when the Japanese had fixed their siege-guns in position and were ready to begin the more serious operations, they first shelled the warships in the harbour, and put them out of action without touching a slate in the town. Then they gave twenty-four hours' notice for the real bombardment to begin and for non-combatants to clear out. When the notice expired they signalled: "Are you now quite ready, gentlemen?" "The reply," said one, "came in the shape of a whizzing bullet which took Prinz Heinrich Hill three hairs out of the signalman's captured moustache, leaving eight remaining."

The difficulty, however, in accepting this story, widely as it was circulated at the time, is that at the date the description was written the real bombardment of Tsingtau had not yet begun.

The Japanese captured with comparative ease a position, Prinz Heinrich Hill, from which they could mount their guns to bombard the forts. During the latter part of October the Japanese hold on the city steadily increased, and the artillery fire grew daily in intensity. The Japanese and British warships maintained a constant fusillade on the forts and on the infantry works near the sea. On the 30th the Japanese opened a heavy fire on a dismantled gunboat, shot her funnel away, and the others left around her, inflicting serious loss.

When their heavy siege-guns were ready, the Japanese circulated a message to the defenders of Tsingtau. It was printed in German on handbills, and was dropped by the thousand from an aeroplane on to the forts in the town. It read as follows:

"To the honoured officers and men in the fortress." It is against the will of God, as well as the principles of humanity, to destroy and render useless arms, ships of war, merchantmen, and other works and constructions, not in obedience to the necessity of war, but merely out of spite, lest they fall into the hands of the enemy.

"Trusting as we do that, as you hold dear the honour of civilisation, you will not be betrayed into such base conduct, we beg you, however, to announce to us your own view as mentioned above.—THE BESIEGING ARMY."

The British contingent under General Barnardiston left Tientsin on September 19th, and after calling at Wei-hai-wei for transport mules, landed in Shantung on the 21st. Our authorities were careful to select a point of landing in the German protectorate in order that no question of violating Chinese neutrality might arise. The weather was very trying, a strong southerly gale blowing, heavy rain falling, and a very heavy sea running. It seemed, when the troops landed, as though earth and sea and sky had contrived to make their work as difficult as possible. They set out on a forty-mile march, and came up behind the Japanese as they were driving in the German advance positions. It was intended that they should participate in this attack, but the German resistance at this point was so slight that their help was not wanted. On October 30th the entire British force moved up to the front.

The British now occupied one part of the allied front, a front extending to about five miles, and there they took part with the Japanese troops in the work of digging an approach by sapping right up to the German redoubts. Night after night officers and men worked with feverish energy, digging their zigzag trenches in the direction of the enemy. It was exceedingly dangerous and trying work. The Germans constantly fired star shells, illuminating the entire position, and as they saw the allied soldiers at work, immediately opened fire on them with shells of every kind and with machine- guns. Day by day the Japanese and the British, notwithstanding all resistance, made their way like moles towards the doomed city.

In a letter to "The Times," a British officer in the expeditionary force gave a vivid description of his experiences in this work. "I left Headquarters and took over a double company," he wrote. "That night we were working in trenches along a river- bed at the bottom of the slope, where the others had been wounded, and sans doute most darnation close to the enemy. A beginning had been made on this trench the night before, so there was a little cover. The two redoubts were about eight hundred yards on our right and left respectively, the enemy's trenches about three hundred and fifty yards to our front. Well, for the first hour after getting down we were left severely alone. Then they started throwing star rockets and sort of Roman candle things which lit up the place like day, and at the same time they peppered us with Maxims, pom-poms, and rifle fire from all three places. We had some men hit farther back in the communication trench, but, funnily enough, none in the forward line. The Borderers left early, and we were working by ourselves for about an hour. Then, in a lull, I withdrew to what was called the 'first position of attack,' a similar line of trenches about a thousand yards up the slope, where my double company was in position during the day. We were entertained to a certain amount of shell fire during the rest of the night. Next night we were due to leave for the forward trenches, at dusk, to carry on, having had our usual entertainment in the afternoon from the Germans, when suddenly they began throwing shrapnel at our trench. For about half an hour it was all over us, and I'm blest if I know why nobody was hit. It was the overhead cover, I fancy, that saved us this time. We came out like a lot of rabbits when it was over, and proceeded to get down below. The Japanese artillery was supporting us that night, as we were working on the enemy's side of the river, within two hundred yards of their advance trenches. Never have I felt a more comforting sensation than when watching those Japanese shells bursting just over our heads, a little in advance, the shrapnel from them going slap into the Germans every time. I must say it was a magnificent sight when the Japanese guns were going, the German rockets, etc., and their machine-guns and rifles joining in when they could get their heads up. One had to shout to make oneself heard, and those who saw it from the top of Heinrich Hill in rear said it was very fine."


ruins of a German fort


The bombardment with the heavy siege-artillery opened on October 31st, the birthday of the Emperor of Japan. Everything had been arranged for the occasion. The Japanese had one hundred and forty-two guns in position, gun's of a calibre more than adequate to deal with the heaviest guns on the Tsingtau forts. They had every range, and they knew exactly where they meant to hit. There was no wasteful firing here. From Prinz Heinrich Hill, where the staff of the Japanese and British expeditionary forces had betaken themselves, it was possible to see the operations like a great panorama spread out under one's feet. That morning Japanese and British cruisers lay out at sea, waiting for the signal to begin. The British and Japanese troops held their entrenched positions, and at every point concealed great guns were directed on to Tsingtau itself. The bombardment opened at dawn. One of the first shells set fire to enormous oil-tanks in the naval docks, sending up a pillar of smoke that spread like a pall over the city. Then shells burst over the forts, and under the almost ceaseless rain of heavy metal the gun emplacements seemed to melt and to crumble. The barbed-wire entanglements were scattered into fragments; the trenches were broken, filled in here, expanded there, and blurred elsewhere by the high-explosive shells constantly falling among them. Under the shelter of this fire the infantrymen continued to push up their saps and trenches. While the artillery were at their deadly work from the shore, the naval guns of both the Allies were pouring their messengers of death on the town from the sea. It was evident from the first hour the major operations began that the German resistance would be smashed by the mere weight of metal.

The Germans replied bravely, but vainly. A Japanese observation balloon overhead signalled the positions and the result of the firing. The tanks of the Standard Oil Company and the Asiatic Petroleum Company caught fire. Most of their contents had been run off before, but enough was left to add to the blaze. "The noise of the whistling and exploding shells was tremendous," wrote one observer. "They covered the summits of the hills with dust and smoke."

The artillery fire was incessantly maintained for seven days, night and day. Non- combatants in the town herded themselves in cellars to escape the bursting explosives. The wounded were taken from their wards into the cellars and cared for there. The men in the German bomb-proof casements replied till all their shells had gone. Almost every German position, save the bombproof casements in which the guns stood, was knocked to bits. The ground was everywhere pitted-and torn. The troops in the trenches between the forts were in many cases wiped out by the rain of bursting shrapnel and high explosives. Meanwhile the Japanese and British infantry had advanced by means of their trenches to points right under the forts. Here they lay watching, and picking off any man who in the least exposed himself. To add to the horrors in the place, Japanese aeroplanes were constantly soaring overhead, dropping bombs on every possible position. The Japanese fire destroyed the electric light works, so that for the last few days the people had nothing but candle light. The wireless apparatus was rendered useless.

Life in Tsingtau for those few days was a concentration of all possible horrors. What were the experiences of the few civilians left in the place?

Happily we are able to answer this question from the very vivid despatches of Mr. A. M. Brace, the staff correspondent of the Associated Press, who was the only foreign correspondent in Tsingtau itself. At first, he says, in spite of the fact that the city was almost empty, the life of those who remained was quite normal. There were enough shops open where purchases could be made.

Cafés continued business, and tiffin and dinner were served without interruption at the German Club throughout the whole siege, although towards the end the number who came to the club dwindled to a few of the administrative officers and civilians. On the second day of the heavy bombardment, at dinner-time, one shell struck in the street in front of the favourite cafe, the Kronprinz, two in the side street next to it, and two more a hundred yards from the club. "There was just a sign of uneasiness among a few at a table, but when the final crash came near by someone lifted his glass and started a scrap of a song, which was taken up around his table and had a decidedly heartening effect."

During the last days the streets were practically deserted. A few men hurried along on necessary errands. The people stopped the windows of the cellars in which they slept with bags of sand, or in some cases even with newspapers. While the supply of running water ceased in the middle of October, there was an abundant stock of beer which lasted amply until the very end. News from the outside world came through until November 5th, news that usually told of the ruin of England. "I remember one evening the roar of laughter that went up in the German Club when the news was read that England had asked Portugal for assistance. For two or three days it looked, according to the news, that the British Empire was going to pieces. We heard of revolutions in India, riots in Alexandria, mutiny and martial law in South Africa, and even disaffection in Sarawak and North Borneo." It became clear to everyone inside that the end was drawing very near. The warships in the harbour were blown up and sunk in order that they might not fall into Japanese hands. The big guns in the forts were fired many of them to the last shot, and then the gunners, acting under orders, destroyed them with explosives. There; was no shortage of food, and when the city was captured provisions were found there sufficient to feed five thousand persons for three months. But provisions without ammunition were of no use.


Japanese infantry inside a German fort


Bismarck Fort, one of the most powerful of all, had been destroyed at the beginning of November, as was told earlier, by the British battleship Triumph. Other forts became more and more silent. On the night of November 6th some troops advanced to attack a redoubt, and entered it with comparatively little difficulty. Encouraged by this success, the Japanese Commander ordered a general advance. Japanese and British battalions crept up silently in the darkness to point after point. The two great mountain positions of litis and Bismarck fell into the hands of the Allies with a minimum of opposition. At one ridge they came on a small party of Germans in charge of a searchlight. They did not fire on them, for to do so would be to betray themselves, but they fell on them with spades and pickaxes and killed them. At other parts they took up positions covering the exits of the forts, so that should any Germans try to emerge they could shoot them down. How the Japanese were allowed to advance that night as they were across the elaborate land defences of the Germans, practically without resistance, remains to this day a mystery. They expected to have to make a grand assault and lose possibly thousands of men. They found, so to speak, the door left open for them to enter at their ease. Were the Germans stupefied and deafened by the continuous hail of shell fire? It was said at the time that Captain Meyer-Waldeck was wounded a few hours before the end. The feeble resistance before the Japanese final advance is inexplicable.

When dawn broke the Japanese found themselves in command of some of the forts dominating the city. Now was the moment for a grand final assault. They made ready, but before the whole line moved forward a white flag was seen fluttering from the observatory, followed by white flags raised at other points. The Germans were going to surrender. It may safely be said that no one was so much surprised at this inglorious final collapse as the Japanese themselves.

It was seven o'clock in the morning when the white flag was raised, and as the little Japanese soldiers saw it they set up a loud shout of "Banzai! Let great Japan live for ever!"—the national cry. As they looked around their ranks they saw that even though the capture of the city had been very much easier than they expected, yet some parts of the Army had paid a heavy price. Thus the company that attacked Redoubt 2 had been caught under the fire of machine-guns, and out of two hundred and fifty men only eighty-seven were left. This was the heaviest loss of any, the total Japanese casualties in the final assault being four hundred and fifty killed and wounded. The British casualties were slight.

Much regret was felt over one accident. The Governor had resolved to surrender the place at six in the morning, and sent Major von Kayser, his adjutant, to approach the Japanese and to negotiate terms. Major von Kayser, accompanied by a trumpeter and another officer, left the staff headquarters bearing a white flag. The white flag was not observed, and as they got into the region of fire the trumpeter was killed and the major's horse shot under him. According to the letters of some of the officers sent home at the time the major himself was shot.

The formal surrender of the place was arranged. The Japanese immediately took possession, and on November 16th a ceremonial entry was arranged, when a memorial service was held for the dead. The Germans before surrender had done all they could to spoil supplies likely to be of use. The warships had been sunk and the great guns damaged or destroyed. The trophies of war that were taken included 2,500 rifles, 100 machine-guns, 30 field-guns, 15 000 tons of coal 40 motor-cars, cash to the amount of £1,200, and a considerable quantity of provisions. The prisoners taken numbered 4,043, including the Governor, 201 German officers, and 3,841 non-commissioned officers and men. The Japanese casualties were 236 killed and 1,282 wounded. The British casualties were 2 officers wounded, 12 men killed, and 61 wounded. These figures were surprisingly small. The Germans estimated their losses during the siege at about 1,000 men.

The fall of the city was naturally the occasion for great rejoicing throughout Japan. The capital was decked out with flags, the Union Jack alongside of the Rising Sun. Lantern processions, a very picturesque Japanese form of rejoicing, were held in towns and villages and cities alike, where long lines of men marched in their native dress through the streets of bamboo-sided houses, bearing paper lanterns and waving banners.

Numerous congratulatory messages were received. Lord Kitchener sent his felicitations to the Japanese Minister of War at Tokyo: "Please accept my warmest congratulations on the success of the operations against Tsingtau. Will you be so kind as to express my felicitations to the Japanese forces engaged? The British Army is proud to have been associated with its gallant Japanese comrades in this enterprise." The Board of Admiralty also sent heartiest congratulations " on the prosperous and brilliant issue of the operations." The Emperor of Japan sent a message to the Japanese forces telling his appreciation of "the faithful discharge of their duties." He further sent a message to the British forces "deeply appreciating the brilliant deeds of the British Army and Navy which, co-operating with the Japanese, have fought for and bravely achieved one of the objects of the war."

The Germans tried to explain away their loss. Captain Meyer-Waldeck, interviewed when removed as a prisoner of war to Japan, said that many of the guns at Tsingtau were old, and the Germans had not calculated on having to resist the Japanese Army. Dr. Kaempf, the President of the Reichstag, sent a telegram to the German Emperor condoling with him on the surrender, and expressing the hope that the day might come when German civilisation would re-occupy its place in the Far East. The Germans circulated an account in their Chinese subsidised newspapers in which they stated that the fortress of Tsingtau was not stormed at all but capitulated voluntarily, on receipt of orders from the Kaiser, to obviate the useless shedding of Japanese blood. The account added that the Kaiser intended, after peace had been established, to extract an enormous indemnity from Japan. The Berlin " Lokalanzeiger" threatened vengeance: " Never shall we forget the bold deed of violence of the yellow robbers or of England that set them on to do it. We know that we cannot yet settle with Japan for years to come. Perhaps she will rejoice over her cowardly robbery. Here our mills can grind but slowly. Even if the years pass, however, we shall certainly not often speak of it, but as certainly always think of it. And if eventually the time of reckoning arrives, then as unanimously as what is now a cry of pain will a great shout of rejoicing ring through Germany, 'Woe to Nippon.' "

General Kamio was appointed Governor-General of Tsingtau. The Japanese started clearing the land and sea of mines and preparing the city for fresh life under the new administration. The prisoners were moved to concentration camps in Japan. A new series of problems now arose, problems connected with the permanent occupation of Tsingtau and the future relations between Japan and China. These matters, however, hardly come within the scope of this history.

General Barnardiston, the Commander of the British Forces, visited Tokyo early in December, and his visit was made the occasion of a great national demonstration. When he reached the Japanese capital the station was decorated and thousands of school children were waiting to greet him. Dense crowds lined the entire roadway to his hotel, and a week of entertainment was mapped out for him in the lavish fashion which the Japanese understand so well. He was received in audience by the Emperor, dined by the municipality, and treated as Great Britain's representative who had. helped to seal closer the Anglo-Japanese Alliance. Military bands had not played in Tokyo since the death of the Dowager-Empress until he arrived, when "See the Conquering Hero Comes" was played for him.

The Japanese have helped the Allies in two other ways. It is well known that at the beginning of the war there was a considerable shortage of rifles and guns among the Allies, and sufficient weapons could not be manufactured in time to supply the suddenly raised armies. The Japanese arsenals aided the Allies, and tens of thousands of stacks of arms were manufactured and despatched to different countries. The Japanese Navy co-operated in the campaign against the German cruisers in the Pacific and in convoying the Australian contingent to Europe. Japanese warships took prominent and arduous part in sweeping the seas, and it was only by the accident of war that the Emden met the Australian cruiser Sydney in place of one of the Japanese warships.


Back to Introduction

Back to Index