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Siege of Tsingtao

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Siege of Tsingtao
Part of the Asian and Pacific theatre of World War I
Battle of Tsingtao Germans.jpg

German defending forces during the siege
27 August 1914 –[1]
Naval Operations:
17 October 1914 – 7 November 1914
31 October 1914 – 7 November 1914
36°4′N 120°23′E / 36.067°N 120.383°E / 36.067; 120.383
Result Allied victory
Japanese occupation of Tsingtao until 1922
Allied Powers:
 United Kingdom
Central Powers:
 German Empire
Commanders and leaders
Empire of Japan Sadakichi Kato
Empire of Japan Kamio Mitsuomi
United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland Nathaniel Walter Barnardiston
German Empire Alfred Meyer-Waldeck
Austria-Hungary Richárd Makovicz[1]
23,000 Japanese infantry
1,500 British infantry
142 artillery pieces
1 seaplane carrier
5 battleships
2 battlecruisers
2 destroyers
unknown aircraft
3,650 German infantry
324 Austro-Hungarian crew of the Kaiserin Elisabeth
100 Chinese police[2]
1 protected cruiser
1 torpedo boat
4 gunboats
1 aircraft
Casualties and losses
727 killed[3]
1,335 wounded
1 destroyer sunk
1 protected cruiser sunk
1 battleship damaged
1 aircraft destroyed
199 killed
504 wounded
3,400 captured
1 protected cruiser scuttled
1 torpedo boat scuttled
4 gunboats scuttled

The Siege of Tsingtao, sometimes Siege of Tsingtau, was the attack on the German port of Tsingtao (now Qingdao) in China during World War I by Japan and the United Kingdom. The siege took place between 31 October and 7 November 1914 against Imperial Germany. The siege was the first encounter between Japanese and German forces, the first Anglo-Japanese operation of the war, and the only war in the Asian and Pacific theatre during World War I[4].

YouTube Encyclopedic

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  • ✪ The Ally From The Far East - Japan in World War 1 I THE GREAT WAR Special
  • ✪ Battle of Tsingtao (Japan vs German WW I)
  • ✪ The Battle of Tsingtao - 1914 (Rare Photo's)
  • ✪ Deutscher Kolonialismus | Postkartenleporello "Erinnerung an Tsingtau"
  • ✪ May Fourth Movement


It was far from Europe, and yet Japan still helped a lot with the global Allied war effort, but what was going on in japan itself? And what had been going on in the years leading up to the war? That’s what I’m going to talk about today. I’m Indy Neidell; welcome to a Great War special episode about Japan and the First World War. A Civil War in Japan in 1867 resulted in the restoration of Imperial Rule the following year, which was the beginning of Japan’s modern age. The feudal domains, with which the people identified, were abolished in 1871 to help begin to foster a national identity, in the person of the young Meiji emperor and the new government. Japan’s modern military, the Imperial Japanese Army and Imperial Japanese Navy - IJA and IJN - really began in the 1870s. For the new Meiji state, it was vital that these forces be controlled by the emperor and by extension the new state, and not in any way beholden to any faction representing the old order. There was, initially, influence from samurai clans, but over a couple of decades that influence faded as a new national identity was formed. So the military was a cornerstone of the Meiji State and was even instrumental in physically protecting the government in the early days. The Conscription Law of 1873 brought in young men from age 20 and up for three years of service, though after the military’s first overseas expedition to Taiwan in 1874, the next large-scale deployment was not until war with China in 1894. The new national government began a sweeping program of reforms. Industrializing, and developing the country’s economic and military capabilities would hopefully insure that Japan was independent and free of foreign influence. The Meiji constitution of 1889 - Asia’s first - established a system of government that would last until 1945. The emperor shared sovereignty with a number of state organs. There was the imperial council, the cabinet, the imperial Diet - a Parliament with two houses, the judiciary, the Privy Council, and the military. These all had independence and rough equality except the military reported to and was only answerable to the Emperor. Within the cabinet the ministers were also responsible to the emperor, so it was often tough for the Prime Minister to maintain cabinet unity. Establishing a Parliament really changed the political landscape of Meiji Japan, because this created a new group of political rivals and contenders, in the form of political parties, to the Meiji elite, or genro. Some genro, such as Yamagata Aritomo, were opponents of political parties and saw monarchy as the best government for japan and while he was Prime Minister in the late 1890s he passed reforms to limit the influence of political parties in the military and the bureaucracy. Now only active Generals and Admirals could serve as war or navy ministers, which gave the military a veto in government affairs. The 1890s, actually, was the coming of age decade for modern Japan. This was really when Japan began to transform from an agrarian to an industrial society. The architects of Meiji Japan wanted to achieve two more things, a powerful military and an empire, so this was also the decade when Japan began to project its power on to mainland Asia. First, Japan wanted to block any foreign power from dominating or annexing Korea, which lay just 100 miles across the Sea of Japan. That foreign power had been China for hundreds of years, and disagreements over Korea led to the war with China I mentioned, which was a resounding Japanese victory. It also resulted in a big wave of nationalism. Japanese celebration was cut short, though, by French, Russian, and German intervention, which reversed most of what Japan had imposed on China. This really highlighted Japanese diplomatic isolation and prompted the Vice-Minister of Foreign Affairs to write, “At present Japan must keep calm and sit tight... during this time the foundations of her national power must be consolidated; and we must watch and wait for the opportunity in the Orient that will surely come one day. When this day arrives Japan will decide her own fate; and she will be able not only to put into place the powers who seek to meddle in her affairs; she will even be able, should this be necessary, to meddle in their affairs.” Japanese military spending tripled by 1903. Japan had, by then, been part of the eight-nation alliance that responded to China’s Boxer Rebellion and had provided the majority of the alliance forces. In 1902, the first Anglo-Japanese alliance was signed, which was a defensive alliance, with particular focus on Russian ambitions in Asia. The real test for the Japanese military was soon to follow; the Russo-Japanese War in 1904-05, a war that was fought mainly in Manchuria, and a war that Japan won, to much of the world’s surprise. The IJA mobilized over a million men and took over 100,000 casualties in 18 months of war. The IJN delivered one of the biggest defeats of the war in the Battle of Tsushima Strait. Korea fell firmly into Japanese orbit and would be annexed in 1910, and the question of defense now revolved around Manchuria. An important military development I gotta mention here was in 1907 The Aims of Imperial National Defense. This document was a compromise between the two branches of service that defined the “cordon of sovereignty” and the “cordon of advantage”. The former was, at its most basic, the home islands; the la tter was the line of defense to protect the# former. This seems pretty rational, but it had a flaw; it did not account for the expansion of the empire. Once Korea w as annexed, it was no longer an overseas territory like Taiwan, but part of Japan and part of the “cordon of sovereignty”. This moved the “cordon of advantage” from the Korean Peninsula to Manchuria, and as the Empire eventually expanded in Asia, the “cordon of advantage” did as well, pulling the military with it, and bringing Japan into conflict with nations further and further from home. Anyhow, in 1912, the Anglo-Japanese alliance was renewed for another 10 years and that same year the Meiji emperor passed away, triggering a few years of government instability. When the First World War broke out and Japan joined the Entente, the IJA and IJN worked together to take the German administered territory of Tsingtao. The 5,000 enemy troops there held out against 28,000 IJA troops for a few weeks before surrendering and becoming POWs. This was the only battle fought during the war by the IJA until the Siberian intervention of 1918. The IJN, in addition to transport and blockade duties, cooperated with the British navy to destroy German raiders in the Pacific, and occupied German Micronesia. They would eventually take over convoy protection and naval patrols in that part of the world from the British. In May 1917, the IJN was deployed to the Mediterranean to assist the allies in convoy protection, anti-submarine warfare, and other operations, remaining committed there until the end of the war. The IJA was never sent to Europe because virtually no one in Japan was enthusiastic about a war of attrition halfway across the globe for little or no gain. The Mesopotamian front would have been more feasible, but the British had concerns over giving Japan too much influence there postwar, and of course the IJA was not equipped for that climate anyhow. The IJA did send military observers to Europe, though. And they were heavily involved - after the Russian Revolution - in the Siberian Intervention beginning August 1918, which intended to stabilize the Russian Far East and helped evacuate the Czechoslovak Legion through Vladivostok. 70,000 IJA troops operated from there to Lake Baikal, an enormous area, and the final units were not withdrawn until 1922. This whole affair was supposed by many to be the advance for Japanese domination of the Russian Far East. This turned out to be a fantasy. The most well-known, or notorious, Japanese foreign policy move during the First World War was the 21 points, delivered to China in 1915, which we talked about in our China special. The 21 points were an attempt to achieve commercial dominance and reinforce Japan’s position in China, and though they are a pretty naked attempt to secure Japanese power in China, they were pretty moderate compared to the empire building plans of many in the government at the time. When the Great War ended, Japan sat at the Paris Conference as part of “the big five” and for the first time in its history was a major world power. The war had seen the birth of modern labor movements in Japan, a wartime economic boom that created a middle class, and an increase in imperial possessions and influence in Asia. The Japanese military had operated globally, from the Mediterranean to Lake Baikal to China. The war also saw the final transformation of japan into the industrialized urban society that it is today. This, as you can see, was just a brief look at an enormously complex topic, and as always I urge you to look it up for yourselves to go deeper into it.



Imperial Japanese Army uniform as worn on the expedition to Kiaochow
Imperial Japanese Army uniform as worn on the expedition to Kiaochow

Throughout the late 19th century, Imperial Germany joined other European powers in an imperialist scramble for colonial possessions. As with the other world powers, Germany began to interfere in Chinese local affairs. After two German missionaries were killed in the Juye Incident in 1897, China was forced to agree to the Kiautschou Bay concession in Shantung (now Shandong) to Germany in 1898 on a 99-year lease. Germany then began to assert its influence across the rest of the province and built the city and port of Tsingtao, which became the base of the German East Asiatic Squadron of the Kaiserliche Marine (German Navy), which operated in support of the German colonies in the Pacific.

Britain viewed the German presence in China as a threat and leased Weihaiwei, also in Shantung, as a naval port and coaling station. Russia leased its own station at Port Arthur (now Lüshunkou) and France at Kwang-Chou-Wan. Britain also began to forge close ties with Japan, whose developments in the late 19th century mirrored that of the European imperialist powers as Japan acquired colonial footholds on the Asian mainland. Japanese and British diplomatic relations became closer and the Anglo-Japanese Alliance was signed on 30 January 1902. Japan saw the alliance as a necessary deterrent to its main rival, Russia. Japan demonstrated its potential by its victory in the 1904–1905 Russo-Japanese War, and the alliance continued into World War I.

When the war in Europe began in August 1914, Britain promptly requested Japanese assistance. On 15 August, Japan issued an ultimatum, stating that Germany must withdraw her warships from Chinese and Japanese waters and transfer control of its port of Tsingtao to Japan. The next day, Major-General Mitsuomi Kamio, General Officer Commanding (GOC), 18th Infantry Division, was ordered to prepare to take Tsingtao by force. The ultimatum expired on 23 August, and Japan declared war on Germany.

At the beginning of hostilities, the ships of the East Asia Squadron under Vice Admiral Maximilian von Spee were dispersed at various Pacific colonies on routine missions. Spee's ships rendezvoused in the Northern Mariana Islands for coaling. SMS Emden then headed for the Indian Ocean, while the rest of the squadron made their way to the west coast of South America. The squadron engaged and destroyed a Royal Navy squadron at the Battle of Coronel, before being destroyed at the Battle of the Falkland Islands in the South Atlantic.

German defences

The Boxer Rebellion at the beginning of the century had led Germany to consider the defense of Tsingtao. The port and town were divided from the rest of the peninsula by steep hills. The natural line of defense lay along the hills, from the Kaiserstuhl to Litsuner Heights.[2] A second 17 km (11 mi) line of defense was set up along a closer line of steep hills. The final line of defense was along hills 200 m (660 ft) above the town. A network of trenches, batteries and other fortifications had been built in preparation for the coming siege. Germany had strengthened the defenses from the sea, laying mines in the approaches to the harbour and building four batteries and five redoubts. The fortifications were well equipped (though some with obsolete Chinese artillery) and were well manned.


Suwo was the flagship of the Japanese expeditionary fleet during the Siege of Tsingtao.
Suwo was the flagship of the Japanese expeditionary fleet during the Siege of Tsingtao.
The Japanese seaplane carrier Wakamiya conducted the world's first naval-launched air raids in September 1914 against German positions in Tsingtao.
The Japanese seaplane carrier Wakamiya conducted the world's first naval-launched air raids in September 1914 against German positions in Tsingtao.

On 27 August, the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) sent ships under Vice-Admiral Sadakichi Kato, flying his flag in the pre-dreadnought Suwo, to blockade the coast of Kiaochow. The British Royal Navy (RN) strengthened the Japanese fleet by sending the China Station's pre-dreadnought HMS Triumph and the destroyer HMS Usk. According to a German press report after the siege, the Triumph was damaged by the German shore batteries. The blockading fleet consisted mainly of nearly obsolete warships, though it did at times include a few modern vessels. These included the dreadnoughts Kawachi, Settsu, the battlecruiser Kongō, her sister Hiei, and the seaplane carrier Wakamiya, whose aircraft became the first of its kind in the world to attack land and sea targets.[5] These Japanese aircraft would also take part in another military first, a night-time bombing raid.[6]

Japanese troops coming ashore near Tsingtao
Japanese troops coming ashore near Tsingtao

The 18th Infantry Division was the primary Japanese Army formation that took part in the initial landings, numbering some 23,000 soldiers with support from 142 artillery pieces. They began to land on 2 September at Lungkow, which was experiencing heavy floods at the time and later at Lau Schan Bay on 18 September, about 29 km (18 mi) east of Tsingtao. China protested against the Japanese violation of her neutrality but did not interfere in the operations.[7]

British troops arriving at Tsingtao in 1914
British troops arriving at Tsingtao in 1914

The British Government and the other European great powers were concerned about Japanese intentions in the region and decided to send a small symbolic British contingent from Tientsin in an effort to allay their fears. The 1,500-man contingent was commanded by Brigadier-General Nathaniel Walter Barnardiston and consisted of 1,000 soldiers of the 2nd Battalion, The South Wales Borderers; later followed by 500 soldiers of the 36th Sikhs.[8] Following a friendly fire incident, British troops were given Japanese kimonos to wear so they would be more easily identifiable to the Japanese.[9]

The Germans responded to the threat against Tsingtao by concentrating all of their available East Asian troops in the city. Kaiser Wilhelm II made the defense of Tsingtao a top priority, saying that "... it would shame me more to surrender Tsingtao to the Japanese than Berlin to the Russians".[10] The German garrison, commanded by naval Captain and Governor Alfred Meyer-Waldeck, consisted of the marines of III Seebataillon, naval personnel, Chinese colonial troops and Austro-Hungarian sailors, for a total strength of 3,625 men.[11] He also had a modest complement of vessels, including the torpedo boat S-90; four small gunboats: the Iltis, Jaguar, Tiger, and Luchs;[a] and the Austro-Hungarian protected cruiser Kaiserin Elisabeth,[b] whose crew was initially divided in two: half to man the ship, and half to fight with the German land forces.

On 22 August HMS Kennet of the China squadron, under the command of Lieutenant Commander F. A. Russell, while routinely monitoring the naval trade routes, encountered and was damaged in action by the German torpedo boat SMS S90, the German gunboat SMS Lauting and a 4-inch shore battery off Tsingtao. She was hit twice from the retreating S90.[2]


German gun in the Bismarck Fortress, Tsing-Tau, crumpled by Japanese and British shells
German gun in the Bismarck Fortress, Tsing-Tau, crumpled by Japanese and British shells
German front line at Tsingtao 1914; the head cover identifies these men as members of III Seebataillon (III Sea Battalion) of Marines.
German front line at Tsingtao 1914; the head cover identifies these men as members of III Seebataillon (III Sea Battalion) of Marines.
German Marines in forward position during the siege
German Marines in forward position during the siege
German PoWs returning to Wilhelmshaven, Germany from Japan in February 1920
German PoWs returning to Wilhelmshaven, Germany from Japan in February 1920

As the Japanese approached their positions, Meyer-Waldeck withdrew his forces from the two outer defensive lines and concentrated his troops on the innermost line of defense along the hills closest to the town. The Austro-Hungarian cruiser, SMS Kaiserin Elisabeth, was stationed in Tsingtao at the start of the war. On 2 September 1914 the German gunboat Jaguar sank the stranded Japanese destroyer Shirotaye.[1] On 5 September a Japanese reconnaissance aircraft scouted the port and reported that the Asian German fleet had departed; the Japanese ordered the dreadnought, pre-dreadnought and cruiser to leave the blockade.[2] The next day, the first air-sea battle in history took place when a Farman seaplane launched by the Wakamiya unsuccessfully attacked the Kaiserin Elisabeth and the Jaguar in Qiaozhou Bay with bombs.[12] On 28 September the Jaguar sank the Japanese cruiser Takashio.[1] Early in the siege, the Kaiserin Elisabeth and German gunboat Jaguar made an unsuccessful sortie against Japanese vessels blockading Tsingtao. Later, the cruiser's 15‑cm and 4.7‑cm guns were removed from the ship and mounted on shore, creating the Batterie Elisabeth. The ship's crew took part in the defense of Tsingtao. On 13 September, the Japanese land forces launched a cavalry raid on the German rear-guard at Tsimo, which the Germans gave up and retreated. Subsequently, the Japanese took control of Kiautschou and the Santung railway. Lt. Gen. Kamio considered this the point of no return for his land forces and as the weather became extremely harsh he took no risk and fortified the troops at the town, returned the reinforcements that were on the way, re-embarked and landed at Lau Schan Bay.[2]

As the siege progressed, the naval vessels trapped in the harbor, Cormoran, Iltis and Luchs, were scuttled on 28 September. On 17 October, the torpedo boat S-90 slipped out of Tsingtao harbor and fired a torpedo which sank the Japanese cruiser Takachiho with the loss of 271 officers and men. S-90 was unable to run the blockade back to Tsingtao and was scuttled in Chinese waters when the ship ran low on fuel. Tiger was scuttled on 29 October, Kaiserin Elisabeth on 2 November, followed finally by Jaguar on 7 November, the day the fortress surrendered to the Japanese.

The Japanese started shelling the fort and the city on 31 October and began digging parallel lines of trenches, just as they had done at the Siege of Port Arthur nine years earlier. Very large 11‑inch howitzers from land, in addition to the firing of the Japanese naval guns, brought the German defences under constant bombardment during the night, the Japanese moving their own trenches further forward under the cover of their artillery.[8] The bombardment continued for seven days, employing around 100 siege guns with 1,200 shells each on the Japanese side. While the Germans were able to use the heavy guns of the port fortifications to bombard the landward positions of the Allies, they soon ran out of ammunition.[8] When the artillery ran out of ammunition on 6 November, surrender was inevitable.

The German garrison was able to field only a single Taube aircraft during the siege, flown by Lieutenant Gunther Plüschow. (A second Taube piloted by Lt. Friedrich Müllerskowsky crashed early in the campaign). The Taube was used for frequent reconnaissance flights and Plüschow made several nuisance attacks on the blockading squadron, dropping improvised munitions and other ordnance on them. Plüschow claimed the downing of a Japanese Farman MF.7 with his pistol, the first aerial victory in aviation history. Plüschow flew from Tsingtao on 6 November 1914 carrying the governor's last dispatches, which were forwarded to Berlin through neutral diplomatic channels.[c]

On the night of 6 November, waves of Japanese infantry attacked the third line of defence and overwhelmed the defenders. The next morning, the German forces, along with their Austro-Hungarian allies, asked for terms.[8] The Allies took formal possession of the colony on 16 November 1914.



As the German garrison was able to hold out for nearly two months despite a total Anglo-Japanese blockade with sustained artillery bombardment and being outnumbered 6 to 1, the defeat nevertheless served as a morale booster. The German defenders watched the Japanese as they marched into Tsingtao but turned their backs on the British when they entered into town.[13]


Japanese casualties numbered 733 killed and 1,282 wounded; the British had 12 killed and 53 wounded. The German defenders lost 199 dead and 504 wounded.[14] The German dead were buried at Tsingtao, while the remaining soldiers were transported to prisoner of war camps in Japan. The 4,700 German prisoners were treated well and with respect in Japan,[15] such as in Bandō prisoner-of-war camp. The German troops were interned in Japan until the formal signature of the Versailles peace treaty in 1919, but due to technical questions, the troops were not repatriated before 1920. 170 prisoners chose to remain in Japan after the end of the war.

See also


  1. ^ the four gunboats of the East Asia Squadron that had been left at Tsingtao were later scuttled by their crews just prior to the capture of the base by Japanese forces in November 1914
  2. ^ the ship was scuttled after all ammunition had been fired
  3. ^ Plüschow made his way home by August 1915 after a journey lasting nine months via Shanghai, San Francisco, New York, Gibraltar (where he was captured), London (where he escaped from a prisoner of war camp into the neutral Netherlands) and finally to Germany. He continued flying with the naval air service reaching the rank of Kapitänleutnant (Lieutenant Commander) by the end of the war. He then became a well known explorer and died in a 1931 crash in Patagonia, Argentina.
  4. ^ The Naruto camp orchestra (enlarged from the band of the III Seebataillon) gave Beethoven and Bach concerts throughout Japan wearing their uniforms


  1. ^ a b c d Radó 1919, p. 41.
  2. ^ a b c d e Veperdi 2013.
  3. ^ Denis 2000.
  4. ^ 刘平; 江林泽 (2014). "第一次世界大战中的远东战场———青岛之战述评". 军事历史研究 (in Chinese) (4): 52. ISSN 1009-3451.
  5. ^ Saxon 2000.
  6. ^ Nick., Shepley, (2013). Red Sun rising : Japan, China and the West 1894-1941. [Luton]: Andrews U.K. Ltd. ISBN 9781782345848. OCLC 828743675.
  7. ^ "Germans lose possessions in China". The Independent (New York). 16 November 1914.
  8. ^ a b c d Willmott 2003, p. 91.
  9. ^ The Great War, Episode 6.
  10. ^ Edgerton 1999, p. 227.
  11. ^ Schultz-Naumann 1985, p. 204.
  12. ^ Donko 2013, pp. 4, 156–162, 427.
  13. ^ Adelaide Advertiser, Page 8, "The War" section, subparagraph "The China Fight – Australian who was wounded." summary of interview with Captain M. J. G. Colyer, December 28, 1914
  14. ^ Haupt 1984, p. 147.
  15. ^ Schultz-Naumann 1985, p. 207[d]


  • Denis, Colin (2000). "Tsingtao Campaign". Archived from the original on 3 May 2003.
  • Donko, Wilhelm M. (2013). Österreichs Kriegsmarine in Fernost: Alle Fahrten von Schiffen der k.(u.)k. Kriegsmarine nach Ostasien, Australien und Ozeanien von 1820 bis 1914 (in German). Berlin: epubli. ISBN 978-3844249125.
  • Edgerton, Robert B. (1999). Warriors of the Rising Sun: A History Of The Japanese Military. Basic Books. ISBN 978-0813336008.
  • Haupt, Werner (1984). Deutschlands Schutzgebiete in Übersee 1884–1918 [Germany's Overseas Protectorates 1884–1918]. Friedberg: Podzun-Pallas Verlag. ISBN 978-3790902044.
  • Radó, Antal, ed. (1919). "Csingtao eleste" [The fall of Tsingtao]. A világháború naplója [Diary of the World War] (in Hungarian). IV. Budapest, Hungary: Lampel R. könyvkiadó.
  • Saxon, Timothy D. (2000). "Anglo-Japanese Naval Cooperation, 1914–1918". Naval War College Review. 53 (1): 62–93.
  • Schultz-Naumann, Joachim (1985). Unter Kaisers Flagge, Deutschlands Schutzgebiete im Pazifik und in China einst und heute [Under the Kaiser's Flag, Germany's Protectorates in the Pacific and in China then and Today]. Munich: Universitas. ISBN 978-3800410941.
  • Veperdi, András. "The protected cruiser SMS Kaiserin Elisabeth in defence of Tsingtao, in 1914". Budapest, Hungary: Hungarian Seamen's Association. Retrieved 24 July 2013.
  • Willmott, H. P. (2003). First World War (1st ed.). Dorling Kindersley. ISBN 978-1405300292.

Further reading

External links

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