11. Chapter 11The Great War
It was in August 1914 that the German and AustroHungarian War Lords let loose their enormous armed forces on Serbia, Belgium, France, and Russia. Great Britain' - om land hopelessly unprepared for the struggle - took the part of the outraged peoples, and asked the Japanese government for assistance under the terms of the Anglo-Japanese Alliance. The moment had come when the value of another scrap of paper was in the balance. Germany, we may be sure, oiiered inducements to Japan to remain neutral, if not to join her in her piratical enterprise. The sequel will show what a contrast there was between the action taken in the Great War by Japan and that taken almost immediately afterwards by Turkey, and, later, by Bulgaria and Greece.
The Austro-Hiangarian ultimatum was delivered to Serbia on July 23 ; Great Britain delivered hers to Germany on August 4. On August 15 Japan, in a document modelled on the one presented to her by Germany after the Treaty of Shimonoseki, requested Germany to withdraw all warships from Chinese and Japanese waters and to surrender by September 15, 1914, the leased territory of Kiao-chau, with a view to its eventual restoration to China. While Germany and Austria-Hungary fixed hours for the consideration of their ultimata, Japan gave the Kaiser a week in which to make up his mind. Germany returned no answer, and on August 23 the Mikado declared war on her. ' We hereby % the rescript ran, ' declare war against Germany and We command Our Army and Navy to carry on hostilities against that Empire with all their strength and We also command all Our competent authorities to make every effort in pursuance of their respective duties to attain the national aim within the limit of the law of nations.'
The Japanese fulfilled the spirit and the letter of this declaration. With the British, French, and Russian squadrons in the Pacific, the Japanese navy materially assisted in the destruction of the German men-of-war roving between the east coast of Africa and the western shores of America. It helped to convoy the Anzacs on their way to Egypt and the Gallipoli Peninsula ; and, in 1916, the Russian contingents to Toulon. The presence of an AngloJapanese squadron off the coast of South America was one of the causes why von Spee left the Pacific for the Atlantic, where off the Falkland Isles he was to meet his doom at the hands of Admiral Sturdee.
On land, a Japanese army, assisted by a small British force, uprooted the German settlement in the Shantung peninsula, destroyed the great German naval base in the Pacific, and prevented Germans from organizing risings in China and 'Manchuria, which might have resulted in the destruction of the Trans-Siberian railway, over which Russia was drawing arms and munitions of war purchased in Japan and the United States of America, and by which Russia in 1916 sent powerful reinforcements to France. Further, Japanese guns and gunners, in the November of 191 5, were present atWarsawwhen von Hindenburg attacked that city for the first time, and Japanese sailors took part in the suppression of the abortive mutiny at Singapore.
When the Mikado declared war on the Kaiser the main body of the German-Austrian fleet not in the Atlantic, Baltic, or Mediterranean, was ' playing hide-and-seek ', as the Japanese Admiralty has picturesquely phrased it, ' among the South Sea islands '. The remaining vessels, including the Austro-Hungarian cruiser Kaiserin Elizabeth, had taken refuge under the guns of Tsing-tao, the Port Arthur of Kiao-chau, on the southern shote of the Shantung peninsula. The aims of the German naval commanders were - first to prevent any portion of our Indian army, the French garrisons in the East, or Russian troops, from arriving in Africa or Western Europe ; secondly, by demonstrations off the coasts of India, Ceylon, Burmah, the Straits Settlements, and the French possessions in the Cochin-China peninsula, to fan into a flame the discontent (to a large extent secretly engendered by German gold and agents) of the native populations ; thirdly, to sink any transports conveying Australian or New Zealand contingents on their way to India, Egypt, East Africa, or Europe ; and fourthly, to prey upon the sea-borne commerce of the Allies.
To baffle these aims Japan possessed 1 battleship, the Fusoh, of 30,600 tons, 2 battleships (the Kawachi and Seitsu) of the Dreadnought class, 2 Dreadnought battle-cruisers (the Kongo and Hiyei), 2 semi-Dreadnought battleships (the Aki and Satsuma), 4 first-class' battle-cruisers, 6 other battleships, 9 first-class cruisers, 13 second-class cruisers, and a number of coast-defence vessels, destroyers, torpedoboats, submarines, and sea-planes. On the Japanese yards, in process of completion, were another gigantic battleship of 30,600 tons, 2 great battle-cruisers, and other men-ofwar, while other formidable vessels had been laid down. The table on the next page, furnished for The Times by the Japanese Admiralty, shows the strength of the Japanese fleet in April 1916 :
TOTAL NUMBER OF WARSHIPS IN APRIL 1916
The above figures and facts should be attentively studied, because they show how vastly superior was the naval position of Japan in 1914 to what it had been in 1904, when, it will be remembered, Japan had been unable to build men-of-war for herself. The reader may imagine for himself what would have happened if that tremendous naval machine for destruction had been, together with the army which was authoritatively stated some years before the Great War to be twice as powerful as when it fought with the Russians in Manchuria, had been lent to the Kaiser. It is not merely by what they have done, but by what they have not done, that the services of the Japanese in this world-contest should be estimated.
What was accomphshed must now be related. Besides at once blockading Tsing-tao, and convoying the troops and guns detailed for the reduction of that fortress, the Japanese naval authorities detailed a squadron - at first under RearAdmiral Tsuchiya, and later under ViceAdmiral Kaimamura - to protect the shipping of the Allies in the Chinese Seas. This squadron, cruising as far afield as Singapore and the east of the Philippines, turned the Chinese Seas into a mare clausum for Germans. The fall of Tsing-tao on November 7 - two days before the Sydney put the Emden out of action - rendered Tsuchiya's task unnecessary. In February 191 5 some marines were disembarked by him at Singapore who, with troops landed from the French warship Montcalm and the Russian converted cruiser Ariol, helped the British to put down the mutiny of the Indian troops stationed there.
Meanwhile another Japanese squadron, under Captain Kwanji Kato, on the battle-cruiser Ibuki, had on August 26 proceeded 'to Singapore and joined the British Eastern Squadron. On September 10 the Emden appeared in the Bay of Bengal. A part of Kato's squadron hunted for the Emden and any other German war-vessels ; another part helped to convoy the transports carrying Australian and New Zealand troops. On October 15 Vice-Admiral Tochinai joined Kato with reinforcements and took over the command. The Ibuki accompanied the Anzacs from Wellington and Perth to Aden.
Equally signal were the services rendered by the Japanese navy east of the area JapanAustralia. The moment war was declared the Mikado dispatched four battle-cruisers, including the Kongo and Hiyei, under the above-mentioned Rear-Admiral Tsuchiya, towards North America, with a view to safeguarding the international trade routes from the German racific Squadron and from the German and Austrian warships which had escaped from Tsing-tao before Japan declared war. Later Rear-Admiral Matsumura with another squadron (including the Sapuma) departed for the South Seas. The enemy cleverly evaded both squadrons, but one by one all their naval bases in those regions were captured.
At the end of 1913 - in consequence of the disturbed state of Mexico and for the protection of the Japanese there - the first-class cruiser Izumo, under Captain Moriyama, had been sent across the Pacific. At the outbreak of the war Moriyama was ordered to safeguard the Allied shipping along the western coast of North America. The first-class cruiser Asama and the Higen were promptly sent to join him, and the British warship Newcastle, with the Canadian warship Rainbow, was attached to his command. On October 15 the Gaiel, a German warship, and some transports, were located in Honolulu harbour, Hawaii. On November 7 they were interned by the American authorities.
Before, however, that event occurred, an inadequate British squadron, under Rear-Admiral Cradock, had on November i been badly defeated off the coast of Chile by von Spec, who had skilfully succeeded in uniting most of the German men-of-war in the Pacific, including the Gneisenau, Scharnhorst, Dresden, Leipzig, and Niirnberg, In the battle off Coronel the Good Hope and Monmouth were sunk. Moriyama's squadron and the British Australian squadron were deputed to deal with the serious situation created by the defeat. Together they descended the South American coast, while Rear-Admiral Sturdee with the battle-cruisers Invincible and Inflexible, five cruisers, one armed liner, and the old battleship Canopus, 'waxttA in the Falkland Islands for von Spec, if he should venture into the Atlantic.
The Germans fell into the trap, and on December 8 von Spee's squadron, with the exception of the Dresden, was destroyed.
Also to deal with the German fleet in the Pacific, ViceAdmiral Tochinai with the Tokiwa and Chitose left Japan.
On March 10, 1915, the Prinz Eitel Friedrich, which had escaped to a port of the United States of America, was disarmed, and on March 14 the Dresden was destroyed by British men-of-war off Juan Fernandez. The Kaiser's dream of dominating the Pacific was over. His last ship in those waters had foundered within sight of the island of Alexander Selkirk ! Five months or so before this, the end of German ambitions east of Suez had been foreshadowed by the capture of Tsing-tao.
Tsing-tao, the capital of the German colony (200 square miles in extent) of Kiao-chau in the Shantung peninsula, was as strongly fortified as Liege, Namur, and Antwerp had been supposed to be. No less than 20,000,000 had been spent on it. If there was one thing the Germans knew, it was the power of the most up-to-date howitzers and naval guns. The fortifications on the land and sea fronts had been designed with characteristic foresight and thoroughness. The town was situated on a sheltered bay, and the colony was surrounded by neutral territory. A railway from Tsing-tao crossed the Chinese frontier, and at Tsi-nan-fu joined the Great Eastern line to Peking. From the borders of Kiao-chau to those of the British colony of Wei-hai-wei at the northern tip of the peninsula was a distance of some eighty miles.
The Japanese had captured Port Arthur, but the fortifications of Port Arthur in 1904 were only completed during the siege. Would Japan be able speedily to reduce Tsingtao ? The Krupp firm had cheated the Belgian, but was not likely to have cheated the German government. With a garrison of 5,000 troops. Admiral Meyer Waldeck, the Governor, had been ordered by the Kaiser to defend the fortress to the last man.
Immediately after the declaration of war, a Japanese fleet under Vice-Admiral Tomosaburo Kato, which included the battleship Kaviachi, had been dispatched to ward off any attack by the German ships in the Yellow Sea. Another fleet, with which were H.M.S. Triumph and Usk, proceeded under Vice-Admiral Sadakichi Kato for Tsing-tao itself. Islands adjacent to the port were seized on August 27, and the blockade of Tsing-tao was declared the same day. Simultaneously the first transports of the Japanese besieging army were being loaded with men, guns, and munitions.
Covered by the two fleets, the transports began to arrive in the vicinity of the fortress. Mine-sweepers were busy at work off the coast, and the crew of the Takachiho, afterwards destroyed by a mine, were seeking and cutting the German maritime cables.
On September 2 the first Japanese troops landed at the western base of the peninsula, at whose extremity is Tskig-tao. The besieging army was commanded by Lieutenant-General Kamio. It comprised a division of infantry, plus three brigades, a corps of siege artillery (140 guns, including six 11-in. howitzers), a flying squadron, a regiment of cavalry, and detachments of engineers and marine artillery. The task before Kamio was rendered especially difficult by the heavy storms, which converted the ground before him into swamps and lagoons.
Kamio at first contented himself with sending aeroplanes over the fortress, which bombed the wdreless and electric power stations and the ships in the port. These latter had been driven up the harbour by the Japanese men-of-war. On September 13 Kamio seized the railway station of Kiao-chau, twenty-two miles from Tsing-tao. Ten days later, Brigadier-General Barnardiston, with a battalion of the South Wales Borderers and half a battalion of Sikhs from Wei-hai-wei, landed at Laoshan Bay, on the eastern side of the Tsing-tao peninsula. On September 27 and 28 the Japanese reached the outer defences of the fortress and took Prinz Heinrich HiU, fronj which they dominated the inner forts. The Germans feebly counterattacked on the 30th. At the beginning of the next month Kamio took over from the Chinese the Shantung railway from Tsi-nan-fu eastwards.
Meanwhile the heavy, artillery was being disembarked. Some of the heavy guns were mounted on Prinz Heinrich HiU. On October 15 - the first day of the battle of Ypres - an opportunity, gladly taken, was given to non-combatants to leave the fortress. The next day a general bombardment from the sea began, chiefly directed against the ships in the harbour and against the Kaiser and litis forts. On October 31, the Mikado's birthday, the bombardment from the land side began.
The final scenes were described by the Japanese military authorities as follows, in The Times Japanese Section of December 16, 1916 :
' The preparations of the invading army having been thoroughly completed, the most auspicious day was chosen - October 31 - in honour of the celebration of the Mikado's birthday, to commence the bombardment by the siege artillery. At the hour when the summit of Mount Fusan was just dimly tinged vnth the first pale light of the dawn our siege artillery gunners began their simultaneous cannonade. Hundreds of. thousands of deafening thunderbolts seemed simultaneously to shake the earth amidst the glare of terrific lightning flashes. Volume after volume of the darkening shell-smoke spread densely over each of the enemy forts a deadly pall which was well-nigh heartrending even for mere spectators. Indeed, the intensity of horror that formed the atmosphere of the whole scene of tremendous and destructive violence baffles expression.
' Suddenly, at 7 a.m., an immensely thick column of black smoke rose like a huge tower into the mid-sky from the great port of Tsing-tao. The enormous oil stores of the German dockyard had exploded ! On the litis Fortress not only the heavy guns of our army but also the severe cannonade from the Japanese fleet concentrated their combined fire, so that by noon of the same day it was irretrievably damaged, as was also the Tohsan Fortress. The enemy fire in response to ours was quite feeble.
' The first day of November opened with the steady maintenance of our terrific bombardment. The fire concentrated both on the Fort of Daitohchin and the Central Fortress proved exceptionally eflEective. On the same evening an Austrian warship emerged at a point some 7,000 metres off the west of the huge mole of Tsing-tao and bombarded our right flank, only to be driven off by the Japanese Heavy Artillery Regiment. The whole day of November 2 saw again the continuation of severe bombardment by our army, which succeeded in occupying almost all the front lines extending from the neighbourhood of Sihoh to that of Fusansho.
' There was again a tremendous storm on November 3 with the resultant inundation of all the attacking camps. Many landslips occurred, causing great difficulties to the offensive operations. To make the matter worse, moreover, the lowering dense clouds completely overshadowed the whole of the forts in Tsing-tao. The bombardment was seriously hampered. On the same night one of our lines approached close to the enemy and succeeded, by dawn of the following day, in occupying the German positions for a length of 500 metres, west of Fusansho, after carrying the heights from Pompusho as far as those east of Yuhkasho. On November 5 the enemy's resistance grew extremely active ; but all the forces of our first line pressed the enemy more and more, so that the same night saw nearly all the offensive camps of our army advanced to the wire entanglements, right before his outer trenches in front of the forts. There we entrenched.
'The right front of the Second Central Force, which was commissioned to attack the enemy Central Fort, found that, on the night of November 6, his defensive fighting was not as energetic as it used to be. Especially his outposts had shown perceptible weakness. Our brigade started at once for the destruction of the first German trench before the Central Fortress. Without meeting any particular resistance on the part of the enemy, we succeeded in destroying three lines of barbed wire entanglement one after another ; and at half-past one in the morning of November 7 the Japanese army captured the fort, together with 200 prisoners.
' The moment the German Central Fortress was captured by the Japanese all other forts, which hitherto maintained strict silence, opened fire simultaneously, concentrating their bombardment upon the newly captured fort. The Japanese detachment which occupied it had therefore sustained a loss of a few dozen men killed and wounded. The right wing of our Second Central Force advanced furiously against the eastern Fortress of Daitohchin amid the showers of shells and bullets from the enemy and thus sustained a number of losses in killed and wounded. Nothing could however, stop the onrush of our men, nor daunt their reckless valour. The fortress f eU into our hands at 5 o'clock on the morning of the 7th.
' Before this our left wing under General Horiuchi, whose task was to capture the Northern Fort of ShohTohsan, seized the well-timed opportunity as the fight of our Second Central Force devdoped ; and carried out the onrush at about 5 a.m. of the 7th and captured it at once.
' Our right wing, which advanced against the Coastal Fortress of the enemy's extreme left flank, met with a most stubborn resistance from the Germans, sustaining serious losses. Assisted by our artillery regiment, it was just about to commence its well-known charge against the enemy when, at 7 a.m., the Germans hoisted a white flag and surrendered.
' The British force continued its attack. A section of its troops rushed into the Fort of Daitohchin at about 6.30 a.m. and was followed by its main force soon afterwards.
' Such was the progress of the Tsing-tao battles : during half an hour from 7 o'clock in the morning of November 7 all the forts of Kiao-chau fell one after the other in quick succession, and we saw a white flag flying high above the Observation Tower. Subsequently the enemy's military envoy appeared with his suite at the north-eastern end of Tsing-tao town. The Japanese envoy. Major Kashii, interviewed him at Toh-Gogason at 9.20 a.m., when he received a letter of surrender from the German GovernorGeneral, Waldeck.
' On the evening of the same day Major-General Yamanashi and Commander Takahashi, the Japanese Envoys Plenipotentiary, proceeded to the Moltke Barrack and interviewed the German Envoy Plenipotentiary, Colonel Zacksell. At 7 p.m. the capitulation of Tsingtao was signed and sealed between them. Before the . bombardment, however, a special message was sent through the wireless to the German Head-quarters in Tsing-tao conveying the Mikado's will to save and succour non-combatants.'
The Japanese had lost - besides the Takachiho, a destroyer, a torpedo-boat, and three mine-sweepers - 416 lulled and 1,542 wounded ; and the British 12 killed and 61 wounded. The German casualties are said to have been under 1,000.
A few days later the first batches of German prisoners arrived at Tokyo. As they stepped out of the train, each one was presented by a Japanese lady with a chrysanthemum and an address of welcome in German. The Kaiser and his fellow conspirators had warned Europe and America of the ' Yellow Peril ', and had denounced in terms of hatred and contempt the Japanese for not breaking their word.
With this incident, so charming and yet so subtly ironical, the history of one of the most extraordinary races of human beings may be fitly terminated. The Japanese have learned much from Occidentals ; the latter in their turn have still much to learn from the Japanese.