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Battle of Chra
Part of the Togoland Campaign in World War I
Date22 August 1914[1]
LocationRiver Chra, German Togoland
Result Allied victory
Belligerents

United Kingdom British Empire

  • Gold Coast (British colony) Gold Coast

France France

  • France French Dahomey

German Empire Germany

Commanders and leaders

United Kingdom Lieutanant-Colonel F.C. Bryant[2] France Captain Castaing
United Kingdom Captain A. F. Redfern

United Kingdom Lieutenant Collins[3]
German Empire Major Hans-Georg von Döring
Units involved
United Kingdom Royal West African Frontier Force German Empire Paramilitary and Police Forces
Strength

United Kingdom ?

France 150 [3]

German EmpireEuropeans 40–60

Togolese 400–500[4]
Casualties and losses
73[4]

6 Europeans killed

16 captured [3]

The Battle of Chra was fought between combined British and French and German soldiers on the Chra River and in Chra village on 22 August 1914 during the Togoland Campaign of the First World War. Entrenched German forces were able to hold the Allied advance at this river for some time but eventually withdrew further inland to Kamina due to limited manpower.

Prelude

British and French forces had invaded German Togoland merely days after hostilities in Europe began. British forces under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel F.C. Bryant from the British Gold Coast to the east of Togoland and French forces from the colony of French Dahomey to the west invaded the German colony on 9 August 1914.[2] By 12 August, the entire coastline, including the capital of Lomé, was under Allied control without almost any resistance from the Germans, who had withdrawn to Kamina, the important wireless station that was vital to communication between Germany and her colonies.[5]

The British and French advances towards Kamina were slow due to the fact that the Germans had blown many of the railway bridges, the harsh terrain of bush and swamp made movement difficult, and stops were often needed to regroup and wait for supplies. At that point, the German military commander Captain Georg Pfähler went with 200 soldiers on two trains southwards towards the main Allied columns. They were ambushed however and defeated at the Battle of Agbeluvhoe. Pfähler was killed in action during the battle. That marked the end of any counter-offensive attempts the Germans would make. On 17 August, Bryant's forces joined with 150 French troops under Captain Castaing.[3]

German positions

The Germans had three days [3] to entrench themselves at Chra before Allied forces arrived from the south. This village, through which the road and railway passed, was chosen as the point from which to defend Kamina further north. While both the road and railway bridges over the River Chra had been blown, 40 European and 400 Togolese soldiers [6] dug strong entrenchments surrounding the village of Chra. The land approaching Chra was mined. German forces had three machine guns which in Africa were quite rare. The still intact rail line from Chra to Kamina was an effective supply line that would later bring reinforcements to the battle.

Battle

Bryant's scouts under Captain A. F. Redfern arrived near the southern bank of the Chra river on 21 August.[3] They found German forces consisting of 40 Europeans and around 400 Togolese soldiers heavily entrenched on the northern bank of the river, the bridge over which had been blown by the Germans. Two mines detonated in the paths of the scouts before taking fire from German machine guns. The next day, Bryant's forces had reached the southern bank of the river and he planned to attack the German defenses that day. However the thick bush, strong German defenses and machine gun fire rendered this first assault a failure. On the evening of August 22 however, Allied forces had thought they had found a weak spot in the German entrenchments on their flank. The majority of the allied forces under the French Captain Castaing entrenched themselves across from the German positions. Later that day Allied forces there charged the German trenches. They underestimated the strength of the Germans who had been reinforced by 20 Europeans and 100 Togolese soldiers[3] that day by train from Kamina. Most of the officers there and 12 French soldiers from Senegal were killed in the failed assault. After German forces had repelled all Allied assaults, they were ordered to counter-attack[7] but many of the native soldiers refused to or deserted.

That day was the bloodiest in the entire Togoland Campaign for the British, with 23 killed and 52 wounded,[3] which was approximately 17% of Bryant's column.[2] Bryant planned another attack on the German trenches for the next morning of 23 August, but found that they had been vacated. The German forces had withdrawn in the night back to Kamina, realizing that Allied forces were advancing from all sides on the valuable wireless station and that many of their Togolese Askaris had fled.

Aftermath

Bryant's forces stayed at Chra for a few days regrouping, waiting for supplies from Lomé, and tending to the wounded. On the night of 24 August, explosions were heard by Allied soldiers from the direction of Kamina.[3] The Germans under the orders of Major Hans-Georg von Döring had demolished the wireless station there, after it had sent 229 messages between Germany and the colonies.[8] French and British forces arrived at Kamina on 26 August to find the wireless station in complete ruins. At that time, Von Döring and 200 of his remaining troops that had not fled surrendered to the Allies. The halting of Allied forces at Chra did give the Germans some time to send more vital communications between Germany and its colonies as well as destroy it before it fell into Allied hands. However, it could have possibly been a greater success for the defenders if the proposed German counter-offensive had materialized.[7]

Notes

  1. Morlang 2008, p. 36.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Strachan 2004, p. 16.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 3.6 3.7 3.8 Fecitte
  4. 4.0 4.1 Längin 2005, p. 300.
  5. Horne 2012, p. 116.
  6. Friedewald p. 12.
  7. 7.0 7.1 Morlang 2008, p. 37.
  8. Strachan 2004, p. 17.

References

  • Fecitte, Harry. "Togoland 1914." Harry's Africa. Web. 2012. <http://www.kaiserscross.com/188001/300143.html>.
  • Friedewald, Michael. "Funkentelegrafie und deutsche Kolonien: Technik als Mittel imperialistischer Politik"
  • Horne, John. "A Companion to World War I". Blackwell, 2012. ISBN 978-1-4051-2386-0
  • Längin, Bernd G. "The German colonies - Scenes and stories from 1884 to 1918". Hamburg / Berlin / Bonn: Mediator, 2005
  • Strachan, Hew. The First World War in Africa. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 2004 ISBN 0-199-25728-0
  • Thomas, Morlang. "Askaris und Fitafita in den Deutschen Kolonien". 2008 ISBN 978-3-86153-476-1

Coordinates: 7°10.24′N 1°09.52′E / 7.17067°N 1.15867°E / 7.17067; 1.15867

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