The Siege of Tsingtao
by Walter Mow
While German forces dominated the European battle fields in the opening months of the First World War Japanese and British forces successfully blockaded, trapped and defeated the German forces defending the port city of Tsingtao, the present day city of Qingtao.
In an uneasy alliance the British combined forces with the Japanese more to keep a wary eye on the expansionist aims of the Japanese. The addition of the British ships, pre-dreadnaught HMS Triumph and destroyer HMS Usk allowed the Japanese to concentrate their efforts on capturing the German out post.
The Japanese seaplane carrier IJN Wakamiya and its contingent of four Maurice Farman MF7 seaplanes would conduct the first naval aviation sorties bombing and strafing a fortified position and assorted German naval vessels. The four MF7 seaplane variants were built under a licensing agreement with the French designer Maurice Farman.
The Japanese used the aircraft as artillery spotters and bombers and a first ever night time bombing raid. The intrepid Japanese would lose one to enemy fire. A German aviator claimed it was he who shot down the Japanese aircraft with his pistol. The German claim cannot be verified but if true, this was the first downing of an aircraft in aerial combat.
The blockade was initiated August 27, 1914 by Japanese naval vessels; they were joined later by the addition of the two British vessels. Beginning on the second of September the Japanese began to land the first of 23,000 troops with 142 artillery pieces. The Japanese Commander refused to use frontal attacks against the well fortified peninsula; instead he used artillery barrages and small skirmishes to advance down the peninsula, eventually ringing the port city.
The Germans valiant defense was aided by the guns from the cruiser Kaiserin Elisabeth but the naval blockade forced the Germans to scuttle their small naval contingent to avoid its capture. Seriously outnumbered and having exhausted their supply of ammunitions on the 6th of November, the Germans were forced to ask for terms the next day.
Japanese forces began the siege of Tsingtao with a naval gunnery barrage October 31, 1914 and combined it with bombing raids by the seaplanes making it the first naval aviation action by any of the world’s naval powers. The combination of blockade and siege forced the Germans to surrender the port to Japanese forces, the siege ending November 7 and final evacuation of German forces November 10, 1914. The defeated Germans would be interned in Japan for the duration of the war.
Over looked in many histories of the “War to End all Wars”, this engagement contained a number of “firsts”. The IJN Wakamiya was the first aircraft carrier to carry out offensive actions against an adversary; its aircraft would conduct the first land and sea bombing raids, conduct the very first night time bombing raid and have an aircraft shot down in aerial combat.
Another 4 bloody years were to be fought before the “Armistice” of November 11, 1918 ended the carnage, but the “First World War” and its list of “firsts” would change warfare for all time.
The First World War involved 70 million people, 60 million in Europe alone while some 10 million people were involved in other parts of the world making it a global war.
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