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Imperialism | Colonial Policy


Deutscher Kolonial-Atlas mit Jahrbuch (Atlas German Colonies, with Yearbook), edited by the German Colonial Society, 1918, The War in Deutsch-Südwestafrika
The War in Deutsch-Südwestafrika

(p.18) In Deutsch-Südwestafrika the white Schutztruppe of almost 1,800 men, in addition the police force of 500 white dependents could be disposed of. In addition reservists c. 3,500 strong could be mobilized from the settler population. 
On the other side, the Union of South Africa mobilized c. 60,000 men, equipped with all equipments of modern warfare, for instance with more than 2000 motor vehicles. Deutsch-Südwestafrika was informed of events in Germany via the radio telegraph station at Kamina (Togo). After this was destroyed, news had to be transmitted directly, which was successfully done in part.
On the German side, in consideration of the small forces at disposal, and of the long borders, at first adopted a policy of wait-and-see. The Boer risings under Delarey and Dewet prevented the Union from taking early action, so that August 1914 went by peacefully. The British side undertook a raid on the German station Ramansdrift on the Oranje River on September 15th. The German response was to take prisoner the British garrisons of Stolzenfels, Nakab and Rietfontein. The German commander withdrew his forces on purpose to lure the enemy forces into a trap. On September 26th they succeeded in cutting off a British force of 300 men and, after a determined skirmish, to force their surrender. After this defeat, the enemy, for the time being, terminated his attack from the south; the main push now came from Lüderitzbucht, where, under the protection of gunboats, the enemy had landed 8000 men on September 19th. The German garrison had withdrawn to Aus on the line Lüderitzbucht-Keetmanshoop. There it prepared a strong position, out of which it later was not expelled, but which it "marched out".
In the meantime the well-known incident at Naulila occurred, where several German officials and officers had been murdered by the Portuguese military (p.19). The punishment expedition under Major Franke invaded Angola and defeated the Portuguese forces near Naulila and stormed that fort. At the same time the German Schutztruppe suffered a heavy blow, when the Schutztruppe commander, Lt. von Heydebreck, died after an accident. Major Franke, returning from Angola, was appointed his successor.
In the meantime, nothing had happened on the British front. The enemy repeatedly had taken the undefended city of Swakopmund under fire, and further was fully occupied with the suppression of the Boer rising. From Lüderitzbucht the British attempted to repair the destroyed Lüderitzbuchtbahn, which did not prevent the Germans to repeatedly penetrate into the diamond fields.
On December 15th one of the two pilots in the protectorate registered that the enemy began to move forward from Lüderitzbucht, and already the next day 5 squadrons attacked German outposts 100 km distant from the coast. On December 24th ships appeared off Walvis Bay, which earlier had been occupied by the Germans. Large numbers of troops were landed and Botha, who had taken over command of the campaign and who established his headquarters at Walvis Bay, immediately began with the construction of a railway connecting Walvis Bay and Swakopmund. Because of these events as well as because of the advance of South African troops from Bechuanaland the position in the south of the protectorate became untenable, when the enemy advanced in eastern and northeastern direction. The south was exacuated, war supplies transported off northward. Railways and watering places were destroyed, if possible; cattle was driven northward. In consideration of the superiority in numbers of the Union force, which at times numbered to 60,000 men, it always was capable of overtaking the small Schutztruppe detachments and to force their retreat. Still, the Schutztruppe detachments repeatedly succeeded in inflicting losses on the enemy. In April 1915 the detachment von Kleist attempted to halt, near Berseba, the enemy advancing from the southern railroad. They succeeded in surprising Berseba, but the event did not have a lasting impression on the enemy operations. On April 27th the entire detachment von Kleist almost was encircled to the north of Gibeon, by a superior force. Still the Schutztruppe succeeded in breaking through, inflicting heavy losses on the enemy. They retreated northward. The further retreat was unmolested. Because of utter exhaustion and lack of supplies the enemy had to slow down.
In the meantime the Bastards had risen. They left their main settlement, Rehoboth, and began plundering the German farms in the districts and to murder the German farmers. Troops also had to be sent against them.
The enemy, asvancing from the base at Swakopmund, in mid February 1915 raided the camp of the coast protection companies near Felseneck on the Swakop, just when a part of the company was out on reconnaissance patrol. The companies were withdrawn to Stinkbank. 2 companies and a battery which had returned from the Angola expedition, were sent to enforce the troops standing near Ried. Between Otavi Railroad and Swakop a position was fortified which served to irritate the enemy. At the end of February the enemy attacked with a force of 7 to 8000 rifles and 5 batteries (against 360 rifles, 4 modern, 6 outdated artillery pieces and 6 machine guns). Moving around in a wide circleb in the north, the enemy intended to cut off the position, and to force it to surrender after an artillery barrage. The attack on the other part of the position failed; yet it had to be 
abandoned, so that the enemy had surmounted the Namib girdle around Swakopmund. Thus, Windhuk was immediately threatened, and the troop detachment decided to abandon the place, in order to withdraw further to the north. Supplies were brought to Tsumeb; the governor and his administration staff moved to Grootfontein. After the skirmish at the Swakop position, the enemy remained there, but fiercely worked on repairing the destroyed Otavi Railroad. In order to prevent him to push through to Windhuk before the troops had departed, an attack on the railroad construction tete at Trekkopje on the Otavi Railroad was ordered, and undertaken by 5 companies and 3 batteries. Yet the enemy had observed the advance, and, being enforced, had dug in. As even during the skirmish further strong enforcements arrived by rail and in armed vehicles, the skirmish had to be broken off. On May 4th the South Africans succeeded in occupying Karibib. 
In the meantime negotiations had been begun between the governor and Botha aiming at a truce. Because Bothas demands corresponded neither with the situation in Europe nor with that in the protectorate, they had to be broken off without result. In the days after the unsuccessful negotiations the enemy remained inactive. On the German side preparations were made to eventually withdraw beyond Tsumeb to Namutoni and in case to withdraw into Owamboland (p.20). Now the enemy began his last push northward from Omaruru and Okahandja in a way which could not have been expected according to previous experience. This time he did not depend on the railroad for supplies, but on his park of motor vehicles, to supply his 25,000 troops. The Schutztruppe, depending on the slow ox-carts, and with animals totally exhausted because of the lack of food concentrate, was powerless compared to such a mobility. Any possibility to further retreat northward was no more given, because then it had to abandon its last major asset, the Otavi Railroad. A left enemy column 4000 strong marched via Omaruru and Outjo to Namutoni. It met almost no resistance, because their was nothing which could have been laid in their way. Because of its vehicle park, against expectations, it could cover the distance of 240 km between Outjo and Namutoni in merely 2 days. Botha himself with 15,000 men moved to the left and right of the Otavi Railroad until Otavi, then to Otavifontein, and there he attacked the Schutztruppe with a largely superior force. In order not to be cut off, the Schutztruppe had to retreat, while fighting, to the main position at km 513. The enemy right wing, 4000 strong, closed in from Okahandja via Eaterberg to Tsumeb. Here the left cover of the German position had to be withdrawn in order not to be encircled, as it did not dispose of any artillery any more. Considering the situation, the governor saw no other option than to suggest renewed negotiations to Botha, who could simply have starved out this last German position, after the enemy's left column in the meantime must have closed in on Namutoni and the rear magazines and stores thus could not be saved any more.
On July 6th, in the presence of the Schutztruppe commander, the governor entered in negotiations with Botha in Otavi. A truce was arranged. On July 9th the Schutztruppe, at a strength of 3400 men, surrendered under honourable conditions. Active soldiers of Schutztruppe and police force were allowed to keep rifles, officers even rifles, ammunition and horses. 
The active Schutztruppe force and police force, of 1400 men, was interned. 
We are only badly informed about the political and economic conditions in Südwestafrika, due to the ban on news imposed by the enemy. The country suffered, as the South Africans, at least temporarily, transported civilians off to South Africa as prisoners. However, a lively trade between the Union and Südwestafrika seems to have developed, from which the German farmers settling in the country have benefitted.

Source: Deutscher Kolonial-Atlas mit Jahrbuch, (Atlas German Colonies, with Yearbook), edited by P. Sprigade und M. Moisel, Surveys and retrospects by Dr. Karstedt. Berlin 1918, p.18ff.

GM (digitalisation) and AG (translation) 
posted on the web for psm-data; many thanks to

Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin / Preußischer Kulturbesitz 

Stiftung Preußischer Kulturbesitz


Dokument in deutscher Sprache