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Togoland campaign

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Togoland Campaign
Part of the African theatre of World War I
Togoland, 1914.jpg

Togoland in 1914
Date6–26 August 1914
Location06°07′55″N 01°13′22″E / 6.13194°N 1.22278°E / 6.13194; 1.22278
Result Allied victory
Western Togoland annexed by Britain
Eastern Togoland annexed by France

 United Kingdom

 French Republic

German Empire German Empire

Commanders and leaders
Charles Dobell (in absentia)
Frederick Bryant
Major Maroix
Hans Georg von Doering [de] (POW)
Georg Pfähler 
Units involved
West African Frontier Force
Tirailleurs Senegalais
Paramilitary and police forces
British: 600
France: 500
693–1,500 (including reservists)
Casualties and losses
British: 83
French: c.  54
Lomé is located in Togo
Map of independent Togo

The Togoland Campaign (6–26 August 1914) was a French and British invasion of the German colony of Togoland in West Africa, which began the West African Campaign of the First World War. German colonial forces withdrew from the capital Lomé and the coastal province to fight delaying actions on the route north to Kamina, where the Kamina Funkstation (wireless transmitter) linked the government in Berlin to Togoland, the Atlantic and South America.

The main British and French force from the neighbouring colonies of Gold Coast and Dahomey advanced from the coast up the road and railway, as smaller forces converged on Kamina from the north. The German defenders were able to delay the invaders for several days at the Affair of Agbeluvoe (affair, an action or engagement not of sufficient magnitude to be called a battle) and the Affair of Khra but surrendered the colony on 26 August 1914. In 1916, Togoland was partitioned by the victors and in July 1922, British Togoland and French Togoland were established as League of Nations mandates.


Togoland, 1914

The German Empire had established a protectorate over Togoland in 1884, which was slightly larger than Ireland and had a population of about one million people in 1914. A mountain range with heights of over 3,000 ft (910 m) runs south-east to north-west and restricts traffic between the coast and hinterland. South of the high ground the ground rises from coastal marshes and lagoons to a plateau about 200–300 ft (61–91 m) high, covered in forest, high grass and scrub, where farmers had cleared the forest for palm oil cultivation. The climate was tropical, with more rainfall in the interior and a dry season in August.[1]

Half of the border with Gold Coast ran along the Volta river and a tributary and in the south, the border for 80 mi (130 km) was beyond the east bank. The Germans had made the southern region one of the most developed colonies in Africa, having built three-metre-gauge railway lines and several roads from Lomé the capital and main city. There was no port and ships had to lie off Lomé and transfer freight via surfboat. One railway line ran along the coast from Aného to Lomé, one from Lomé to Atakpamé and one from Lomé to Kpalimé. Roads had been built from Lomé to Atakpamé and Sokodé, Kpalimé to Kete Krachi and from Kete Krachi to Mango; in 1914 the roads were reported to be fit for motor vehicles.[2]

German military forces in Togoland were exiguous, there were no German army units, only 693 Polizeitruppen (paramilitary police) under the command of Captain Georg Pfähler and about 300 colonists with military training.[3] The colony was adjacent to Allied territory, with French Dahomey on its northern and eastern borders and the British Gold Coast to the west. Lomé and the wireless station at Kamina about 62 mi (100 km) inland, which was connected to the coast by road and rail, were the only places of military significance. Kamina was near the town of Atakpamé and had been completed in June 1914. The transmitter was a relay station for communication between Germany, the overseas colonies, the Imperial German Navy and South America.[4] The British Admiralty wished to prevent the station from being used to co-ordinate German attacks on shipping in the Atlantic. At the outbreak of war the Governor of Togoland, Duke Adolf Friedrich of Mecklenburg was in Germany and his deputy, Major Hans-Georg von Döring was the acting Governor.[3]

Gold Coast, 1914

Sir Hugh Clifford, the Governor of the Gold Coast, Lieutenant-General Charles Dobell, commander of the West African Frontier Force (WAFF) and Lieutenant-Colonel R. A. de B. Rose, commander of the Gold Coast Regiment were absent during July 1914. W. C. F. Robertson was the acting-Governor and Captain Frederick Bryant was acting-Commandant of the Gold Coast Regiment.[3] The Gold Coast Regiment had one pioneer company, seven infantry companies with a machine-gun each and a battery of four QF 2.95-inch Mountain Guns, amounting to 1,595 men including 124 carriers and about 330 reservists. There were four "Volunteer Corps" with about 900 men and 1,200 police and customs officers. The Defence Scheme for the Gold Coast (1913) provided for war against the French in neighbouring Ivory Coast and the Germans in Togoland; in the event of war with Germany, the colony was to be defended along Lake Volta and the north-eastern frontier against raiding, which was the most that the Germans in Togoland were thought capable of. The plan also provided for an offensive across the lake into the north of Togoland, before making a thrust south to the more populated portion of the colony.[5]

West Africa, 1914–1918
West Africa, 1914–1918

On 29 July 1914, a Colonial Office telegram arrived at Accra, ordering the adoption of the precautionary stage of the Defence Scheme and Robertson forwarded the information to Bryant the next day.[6] Bryant dispensed with the Scheme, which had not been revised after the wireless station at Kamina was built and by 31 July, had mobilised the Gold Coast Regiment along the southern, rather than the northern, border with Togoland.[7] In London on 3 August, Dobell proposed that if war was declared, an advance would begin along the coast road from Ada to Keta and thence to Lomé, which was less than 2 mi (3.2 km) from the border. Bryant had reached the same conclusion as Dobell and had already organised small expeditionary columns at Krachi and Ada and assembled the main force at Kumasi, ready to move in either direction.[8]


Anglo–French preparations

British troops on parade in Togoland, 1914
British troops on parade in Togoland, 1914

On 5 August, a day after Britain declared war on Germany, the Allies cut the German sea cables between Monrovia and Tenerife, leaving the radio station at Kamina the only connexion between the colony and Germany.[9] The same day the acting-Governor of Togoland, Döring sent a telegram to Robertson proposing neutrality, in accordance with articles X and XI of the Congo Act, which stated that colonies in the Congo Basin were to remain neutral in the event of a conflict in Europe.[10] Döring also appealed for neutrality because of the economic interdependence of the West African colonies and their common interest in dominating local populations.[11] On 6 August, the Cabinet in London refused the offer of neutrality.[12]

Bryant, on his own initiative, after hearing that the French in Dahomey wished to co-operate, sent Captain Barker and the District Commissioner of Keta to Döring, with a demand the surrender of the colony and gave 24-hours to reply. The next morning the British intercepted a wireless message from Döring that he was withdrawing from the coast to Kamina and that Lomé would be surrendered if attacked.[13] A similar proposal for neutrality from Döring had been received by the Governor of Dahomey, who took it for a declaration of war and ordered an invasion. A French contingency plan to seize Lomé and the coast had been drafted in ignorance of the wireless station at Kamina, only 37 mi (60 km) from the Dahomey border.[14]

Advance to Kamina

Capture of Lomé

Gulf of Guinea, showing the location of Togo and the modern states of Ghana and Benin (formerly Dahomey)
Gulf of Guinea, showing the location of Togo and the modern states of Ghana and Benin (formerly Dahomey)

Late on 6 August, French police occupied customs posts near Athiémè and next day Major Maroix, the commander of French military forces in Dahomey, ordered the capture of Agbanake and Aného. Agbanake was occupied late on 7 August, the Mono River was crossed and a column under Captain Marchand took Aneho early on 8 August; both moves were unopposed and local civilians helped to see off the Germans, by burning down the Government House at Sebe. The approximately 460 colonists and Askari retreated inland, impressing civilians and calling up reservists as they moved north.[9]

Repairs began on the Aného–Lomé railway and the French advanced to Porto Seguro (now Agbodrafo) and Togo before stopping the advance, once it was clear that Lomé had been surrendered to British forces.[15] The British invasion had begun late on 7 August; the British emissaries returned to Lomé by lorry, to find that the Germans had left for Kamina and given Herr Clausnitzer discretion to surrender the colony up to Khra, 75 mi (120 km) inland, to prevent a naval bombardment of Lomé. On 8 August, the emissaries took command of fourteen British soldiers and police from Aflao; a telegraph operator arrived by bicycle and repaired the line to Keta and Accra.[15]

The British flag was raised and on 9 August, parties of troops arrived, having marched 50 mi (80 km) in exhausting heat.[15] Over the border, Bryant had arranged to move the main force by sea and embarked on the Elele on 10 August.[16] Three other companies had been ordered to Kete Krachi, to begin a land advance to Kamina. The Elele arrived off Lomé on 12 August and the force disembarked through the surf.[a] Arrangements were made with the French for a converging advance towards Atakpamé by the British and the French from Aného, a French column under Maroix from Tchetti in the north and the British column at Kete Krachi under Captain Elgee. Small British forces, on the northern border, were put under the command of Maroix and ordered to move south, as about 560 French cavalry were ordered across the northern border from Senegal and Niger, towards Mango from 13 to 15 August. The British force at Lomé comprised 558 soldiers, 2,084 carriers, police and volunteers, who were preparing to advance inland when Bryant received news of a German foray to Togblekove.[16]

Peripheral incursions, Bafilo

An aerial mast at the Kamina Funkstation, (wireless transmitter)
An aerial mast at the Kamina Funkstation, (wireless transmitter)

The skirmish of Bafilo took place between French and German troops in north-east Togoland on 13 August. French forces had crossed the border between French Dahomey and Togoland from 8 to 9 August and were engaged by German troops in the districts of Mango and Sokodé-Bafilo. The French company retreated after facing greater resistance than expected.[18] After the capture of Lomé on the coast, Bryant was promoted to lieutenant-colonel, made commander of all Allied forces in the operation and landed at Lomé on 12 August, with the main British force of 558 soldiers, 2,084 carriers, police and volunteers. As preparations began to advance northwards to Kamina, Bryant heard that a German party had travelled south by train the day before. The party had destroyed a small wireless transmitter and railway bridge at Tabligbo, about 10 mi (16 km) to the north. Bryant detached half an infantry company on 12 August and sent another 1+12 companies forward the next day, to prevent further attacks.[19]

By the evening, "I" Company had reached Tsévié, scouts reported that the country south of Agbeluvhoe was clear of German troops and the main force had reached Tabligbo; at 10:00 p.m. "I" Company began to advance up the road to Agbeluvoe. The relatively harsh terrain of bushland and swamp impeded the Allied push to Kamina, by keeping the invaders on the railway and the road, which had fallen into disrepair and was impassable by wheeled vehicles. Communication between the parties was difficult, because of the intervening high grass and thick scrub. The main force moved on from Tabligbo at 6:00 a.m. on 15 August and at 8:30 a.m., local civilians told Bryant that a train full of Germans had steamed into Tsévié that morning and shot up the station.[20] In the afternoon the British advanced guard met German troops near the Lili river, who blew the bridge and dug in on a ridge on the far side.[b]

Affair of Agbeluvoe

The demolitions and the delaying action, held up the advance until 4:30 p.m. and the force spent the night at Ekuni rather than joining "I" Company as intended.[22] Döring had sent two raiding parties with 200 men south by train, to delay the advancing Allied force.[23] "I" Company had heard the train run south at 4:00 a.m., while halted on the road near Ekuni, a village about 6 mi (9.7 km) south of Agbeluvoe. A section was sent to cut off the train and the rest of "I" Company pressed on to Agbeluvoe. A local civilian guided the section to the railway, where Lieutenant Collins and his men piled stones and a heavy iron plate on the tracks, about 200 yd (180 m) north of the bridge at Ekuni and then set an ambush. One of the trains of 20 cars was derailed by the obstacles placed on the tracks and the other train was halted by the rest of "I" Company at the Affair of Agbeluvoe. In the fight between German troops in the railway carriages and the British, the Germans were defeated, Pfähler was killed and a quarter of the German force became casualties.[24][25]

Affair of Khra

Despite the skirmish in the north-west at Bafilo and the Affair of Agbeluvoe, Allied forces advancing towards the German base at Kamina had not encountered substantial resistance. The last natural barrier south of Kamina was the Khra River, where Döring chose to make a stand. The railway bridge over the river was destroyed and the approaches to the river and village were mined. On 21 August, British scouts found 460–560 German police troops entrenched on the north bank of the river.[24] The West African Rifles, supported by French forces from the east, assembled on the south bank and during 22 August Bryant ordered attacks on the German entrenchments. The British forces were repulsed and suffered 17 percent casualties.[21][26] Lieutenant George Thompson became the first British officer to be killed in action in the First World War.[27]

Although the Germans had repelled the Allied force from an easily supplied, fortified position, French troops were advancing from the north and east towards Kamina unchecked and a British column was advancing on the station from Kete Krachi in the west.[25] On the morning of 23 August, the British found that the German trenches had been abandoned. The Germans had withdrawn to the wireless station and during the night of 24/25 August, explosions were heard from the direction of Kamina. French and British forces arrived at Kamina on 26 August, to find that the nine radio towers had been demolished and the electrical equipment destroyed. Döring and 200 remaining troops surrendered the colony to Bryant; the rest of the German force had deserted.[24] The Allied troops recovered three Maxim machine-guns, 1,000 rifles and about 320,000 rounds of ammunition.[28]



Partition of German Togoland between Britain (green) and France (purple)
Partition of German Togoland between Britain (green) and France (purple)

Following the outbreak of the war, the wireless station at Kamina passed 229 messages between Germany, the navy and colonies before it was demolished.[25] The first military operations of British soldiers during the First World War occurred in Togoland and ended soon after British operations began in Europe.[29] In December 1916, the colony was divided into British and French occupation zones, which cut through the German administrative divisions and civilian boundaries.[30] Both powers sought a new partition and in 1919, Article 22 of the Treaty of Versailles distributed the former German colonies between the Allies.[31]

In July 1922, British Togoland and French Togoland were created from former German colony, as League of Nations mandates.[32] The French acquisition consisted of about sixty per cent of the colony, including all of the coastline. The British received the smaller, less populated and less developed portion of Togoland to the west.[30] The part under British administration united with Ghana upon its independence in 1957; French Togoland gained independence in 1960 as the Togolese Republic.[32] The surrender of Togoland marked the beginning of the end for the German colonial empire, which lost all of its overseas possessions by conquest during the war or under Article 22.[33]


The British suffered 83 casualties in the campaign, the French about 54 and the Germans 41. An unknown number of troops and carriers deserted on both sides.[34] The death of Lieutenant George Masterman Thompson of the 1st Battalion Royal Scots made him the first British officer killed in the First World War. Thompson is buried at Walhalla Cemetery near Atakpamé.[35][36] The German hospital at Lomé was commandeered by the British, which was expanded to provide 27 "European" and 54 "native" beds. Four German nurses and 27 other staff had been left behind when the Germans withdrew inland and remained at work, supervised by Dr. Le Fanu. Admissions for sickness during the campaign amounted to 13 Europeans and 53 "natives", 18 of whom were Tirailleurs Sénégalais. Six European and 45 "native" wounded were admitted. One wounded man died, despite the Germans using non-military ammunition, which caused severe wounds. Field hospitals were established along the lines of communication and wounded were swiftly evacuated from Khra by an ambulance train which two days after the engagement. Wounded and ill prisoners of war were treated on a ship, supervised by Dr. Berger, a German medical officer.[37]


  1. ^ A British patrol near a factory in Nuatja, came into contact with German police and exchanged fire. Private Alhaji Grunshi (who retired after the war as a Regimental Sergeant-Major) is believed to be the first British soldier in the First World War to fire his rifle after hostilities had begun.[17]
  2. ^ British engineers were quick to build replacement bridges.[21]


  1. ^ Moberly 1995, p. 6.
  2. ^ Moberly 1995, pp. 4–5.
  3. ^ a b c Strachan 2004, p. 14.
  4. ^ Killingray 2012, p. 116.
  5. ^ Moberly 1995, p. 9.
  6. ^ Moberly 1995, p. 11.
  7. ^ Moberly 1995, pp. 9–10, 13.
  8. ^ Moberly 1995, p. 13–14.
  9. ^ a b Friedenwald 2001, p. 11.
  10. ^ Chappell 2005, p. 7.
  11. ^ Strachan 2004, p. 15.
  12. ^ Moberly 1995, p. 17.
  13. ^ Moberly 1995, pp. 17–19.
  14. ^ Moberly 1995, p. 21.
  15. ^ a b c Moberly 1995, pp. 21–22.
  16. ^ a b Moberly 1995, pp. 25–27.
  17. ^ Moberly 1995, p. 8.
  18. ^ Schreckenbach 1920, p. 886.
  19. ^ Moberly 1995, pp. 25–26.
  20. ^ Moberly 1995, pp. 26–28.
  21. ^ a b Morlang 2008, p. 36.
  22. ^ Moberly 1995, pp. 28–29.
  23. ^ Fecitte 2012.
  24. ^ a b c Friedenwald 2001, p. 12.
  25. ^ a b c Strachan 2004, p. 17.
  26. ^ Strachan 2004, p. 16.
  27. ^ Moberly 1995, p. 36.
  28. ^ Moberly 1995, p. 39.
  29. ^ Andrew & Kanya-Forstner 1981, p. 61.
  30. ^ a b Louis 2006, p. 217.
  31. ^ Strandman 1967, p. 9.
  32. ^ a b Gorman & Newman 2009, p. 629.
  33. ^ Strachan 2001, p. 642.
  34. ^ Moberly 1995, pp. 29, 30–31, 36–39.
  35. ^ CWGC 2020.
  36. ^ SA 2017.
  37. ^ Macpherson 1921, pp. 280–281.



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  • Chappell, M. (2005). Seizing the German Empire. The British Army in World War I: The Eastern Fronts. III. Oxford: Osprey. ISBN 978-1-84176-401-6.
  • Gorman, A.; Newman, A. (2009). Stokes, J. (ed.). Encyclopaedia of the Peoples of Africa and the Middle East. New York: Facts on File. ISBN 978-0-8160-7158-6.
  • Killingray, D. (2012). The Conquest of Togo. Companion to World War I. London: Blackwell. ISBN 978-1-4051-2386-0.
  • Louis, W. R. (2006). Ends of British Imperialism: The Scramble for Empire, Suez and Decolonization: Collected Essays. London: I. B. Tauris. ISBN 978-1-84511-309-4.
  • Macpherson, W. G. (1921). Medical Services in the United kingdom, in British Garrisons Overseas and during Operations against Tsingtau, in Togoland, The Cameroons and South-West Africa. History of the Great War based on Official Documents, Medical Services General History. I (online scan ed.). London: HMSO. OCLC 84456080 – via Archive Foundation.
  • Moberly, F. J. (1995) [1931]. Military Operations Togoland and the Cameroons 1914–1916. History of the Great War Based on Official Documents by Direction of the Historical Section of the Committee of Imperial Defence (Imperial War Museum and Battery Press ed.). London: HMSO. ISBN 978-0-89839-235-7.
  • Morlang, T. (2008). Askari und Fitafita: "farbige" Söldner in den deutschen Kolonien [Askari and Fitafita: Colored (sic) Mercenaries in the German Colonies] (in German). Berlin: Links. ISBN 978-3-86153-476-1.
  • Schreckenbach, P. (1920). Die deutschen Kolonien vom Anfang des Krieges bis Ende des Jahres 1917 [The German Colonies by the Beginning of the War until the end of 1917]. Der Weltbrand: illustrierte Geschichte aus großer Zeit mit zusammenhängendem text (in German). III. Leipzig: Weber. OCLC 643687370.
  • Strachan, H. (2001). The First World War: To Arms. I (2003 ed.). Oxford: OUP. ISBN 978-0-19-926191-8.
  • Strachan, H. (2004). The First World War in Africa. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-925728-7.



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