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World War I Overview - Campaigns in the Middle East and Africa

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War Comes to the Colonies

Formed in early 1871, Germany was a later comer to the competition for empire. As a result, the new nation was forced to direct its colonial efforts towards the less preferred parts of Africa and the islands of the Pacific. While German merchants began operations in Togo, Kamerun (Cameroon), South-West Africa (Namibia), and East Africa (Tanzania), others were planting colonies in Papua, Samoa, as well as the Caroline, Marshall, Solomon, Mariana, and Bismarck Islands.

In addition, the port of Tsingtao was taken from the Chinese in 1897.

With the outbreak of war in Europe, Japan elected to declare war on Germany citing its obligations under the Anglo-Japanese Treaty of 1911. Moving quickly, Japanese troops seized the Marianas, Marshalls, and Carolines. Transferred to Japan after the war, these islands became a key part of its defensive ring during World War II. While the islands were being captured, a 50,000-man force was dispatched to Tsingtao. Here they conducted a classic siege with the aid of British forces and took the port on November 7, 1914. Far to the south, Australian and New Zealand forces captured Papua and Samoa.

Battling for Africa

While the German position in the Pacific was quickly swept away, their forces in Africa mounted a more vigorous defense. Though Togo was swiftly taken on August 27, British and French forces encountered difficulties in Kamerun.

Though possessing greater numbers, the Allies were hampered by distance, topography, and climate. While initial efforts to capture the colony failed, a second campaign took the capital at Douala on September 27. Delayed by weather and enemy resistance, the final German outpost at Mora was not taken until February 1916.

In South-West Africa, British efforts were slowed by the need to put down a Boer revolt before crossing the border from South Africa. Attacking in January 1915, South African forces advanced in four columns on