The Togoland Campaign involved the successful French and British invasion of the German colony of Togoland during the West African Campaign of the First World War. Following the Allied invasion of the small colony in early August 1914, German forces were hastily defeated, forcing the colony's surrender on 26 August 1914. In 1916, Togoland was partitioned between the victors, creating the new colonies of British Togoland and French Togoland.
The German Empire had established a protectorate over Togoland in 1884 which at the time compromised the entirety of modern day Togo and a portion of Ghana east of the Volta River. German colonial efforts had made it one of the most developed colonies in Africa with three railway lines emanated from the capital and main city, Lomé. Despite the economic investments the German Empire had made in Togoland, on the eve of war, it was remained relatively undefended. There was no official German military presence in Togoland, but a police force of 693 men under the command of Captain Georg Pfähler did exist in the colony. Togoland was completely surrounded by Allied territory with French Dahomey on its northern and eastern borders and the British Gold Coast to its west. Lomé, and the important wireless station at Kamina, which were connected by road and rail, were the only targets of any military significance for the Allies. The station at Kamina, completed in June 1914, was situated inland near the town of Atakpame and was vital for communication between Germany, its colonies and its navy. The British admiralty was eager to disable Germany's global communication system, of which the Kamina station was a vital part. The Allies feared that the station would be used to coordinate German attacks on shipping in the Atlantic. At the outbreak of war the colony's governor, Duke Adolf Friedrich of Mecklenburg was away in Germany, leaving his deputy, Major Hans-Georg von Döring in command.
Similarly, the governor of the Gold Coast and two highest-ranking military officers commanding the British Gold Coast Regiment of the Royal West African Frontier Force were absent. This left Captain Frederick Carkeet Bryant, who would temporarily be promoted to Lieutenant Colonel to command the Regiment, in command. The Gold Coast colony did have a mostly defensive plan for war against the French in the Ivory Coast and the Germans in Togoland entitled Defense Scheme for the Gold Coast. In the event of war with Germany, it concentrated the defense of the colony along Lake Volta and the north-eastern fronier. The offensive plan was to push across the lake into the north of Togoland before making a thrust south to the more populated portion of the colony. However, this plan would be largely ignored by Lieutenant Colonel Bryant during his invasion. On 13 July 1914, before war had even broken out in Europe, Bryant had completed the mobilization of the Gold Coast Regiment which concentrated itself along the southern, not northern border with Togoland as outlined in the colony's defensive plan. Bryant was prepared for a swift capture of Lomé and Kamina even without the support of the French, who by 4 August had made their own plans for invasion.
Capture of Lomé
On 5 August 1914, just days after the first shots were fired in Europe, the Allies cut the German sea cables between Monrovia and Tenerife, leaving the radio station at Kamina the sole connection between the colony and Germany. The same day the deputy governor of Togoland, Major von Döring sent a telegram to the British commander proposing neutrality in accordance with the Congo Act which stated that colonies in the Congo Basin were to remain neutral in the event of a conflict in Europe. He also appealed for neutrality on the ground's of the economic interdependence of Togoland and its Allied neighbors. These requests were denied and the on next day, 6 August, Bryant sent an emissary to give an ultimatum to von Döring, demanding the colony's surrender. The Germans denied the British demands and a British cruiser consequently stationed itself in front of the capital, Lomé. By 7 August, British forces had crossed the border into Togoland from the west, along the coastline, a full week before the British Expeditionary Force would arrive in France. A French column of approximately 150 soldiers under the command of Captain Castaing crossed the border on 7 August, occupying the coastal town of Aneho the next day. The small German force of around 60 Europeans and 400 Askaris stationed on the coast retreated inland on 8 August, recruiting natives and calling up reservists as they moved north. On 12 August, another French force under Maroix invaded the colony from Tchetti, further inland.
A British landing force of around 600, commanded by Captain E. Barker seized the town without encountering any resistance on 12 August. A British patrol near a factory in Nuatja however, came into contact with German policeman who attacked them. Alhaji Grunshi, one of the Ghanaian scouts returned fire. He is believed to be the first British soldier to fire a shot during combat in the First World War. Bryant would use Lomé as a base of operations from which to push further inland to the station at Kamina.
After the capture of Lomé, Bryant was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel and commander of all Allied forces in the operation. He then began preparations to advance northwards to Kamina. On 13 August, French forces invading Togoland from the northeast were repulsed at a the Battle of Bafilo by a small German detachment. As British and French forces began to push further north from the coast, they found that road and railway bridges over the rivers Sio and Lili had been destroyed by retreating Germans forces. This did halt the Allied advance somewhat, but British engineers were quick to build replacement bridges. The relatively harsh terrain of bushland and swamp also impeded the Allied push to Kamina.
On 15 August, Major von Döring sent two raiding parties totaling 200 men south in trains in an attempt to stall the advancing Allied force. One of the trains of 20 cars was derailed by obstacles placed on the tracks by elements of the West African Rifles at Ekuni. The other train was halted by members of the West African Rifles at the Battle of Agbeluvhoe. Fierce fighting ensued between German troops in the railway carriages and detachments of the West African Rifles which resulted in German defeat, losing a quarter of their force. The commander of the German military forces in Togoland, Captain Georg Pfähler was killed during the battle.
Defense of Kamina and surrender
Despite the skirmish in the northwest at Bafilo and the action at Agbeluvhoe, Allied forces advancing towards the German base at Kamina had not encountered any substantial resistance. The last natural barrier between the advancing Allied columns to the south and the wireless station at Kamina was the River Chra. Von Döring decided to focus the defense of Kamina there. The railway bridge over the river was destroyed and the approaches to the river and village of Chra were mined. British scouts found German forces heavily entrenched on the northern bank of the river on 21 August. The force defending Chra included 60 Europeans and around 400–500 Togolese soldiers. The West African Rifles, now supported by French forces from the east took positions on the river's southern bank. Lieutenant Colonel Bryant launched a series of failed assaults on the German entrenchments throughout the day of 22 August. The British suffered 17% casualties at the Battle of Chra. The first British officer to be killed in action during the First World War, Lieutenant George Masterman Thompson was among the dead at Chra. Although the Germans were in an easily supplied and heavily fortified position, and they had experienced success in repelling the Allied force, French forces were advancing from the north and the east towards Kamina unchecked. At the same time, a British column was advancing on the station from Kete Krachi in the west. On the morning of 23 August, the British found that the German trenches had been abandoned.
German forces that had once occupied the positions on the River Chra had withdrawn to the wireless station at Kamina itself. By this time, Allied forces of superior numbers were converging in on Kamina from all sides. During the night of 24 August, explosions were heard by Allied troops from the direction of Kamina. The German commander, Major Hans-Georg von Döring had ordered the newly built wireless station there destroyed so it would not fall into the hands of the Allies. French and British forces arrived at Kamina on 26 August, finding all nine of the station's radio towers demolished and the electrical equipment disfunctional. Von Döring and 200 of his remaining troops surrendered themselves and the colony to Lieutenant Colonel Bryant. The rest of the German force had deserted. Following the surrender the Allied troops found that the Germans still had three maxims, a thousand rifles, and approximately 320, 000 rounds of ammunition left.
Before the wireless station at Kamina was destroyed, it managed to send 229 messages between Germany, its navy and its colonies following the outbreak of war. The campaign involved the first combat operations of British soldiers during the First World War and was over scarcely after British fighting in continental Europe had begun. Following the surrender of German forces in Togoland, the colony was split into British and French occupation zones in December 1916. However, these boundaries cut through administrative divisions and tribal boundaries and both powers sought a new partition. By 1919, the Treaty of Versailles was signed, bringing an end to the war. Article 22 of the treaty formally allowed the partition of former German colonies between the victorious Allies. In July 1922, the former German Togoland was officially divided between the two victors as League of Nations mandates, creating British Togoland and French Togoland. The French acquisition consisted of approximately 60 percent of the former German colony, including the entire coastline. The British on the other hand received the smaller, less populated and less developed portion of Togoland. The portion administered by the British later unified with Ghana upon its independence in 1957 while French Togoland gained independence in 1960, becoming the modern Togolese Republic. The surrender of Togoland marked the beginning of the end for the German colonial empire which would lose the rest of its African and Pacific possessions during the First World War.
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