31/12/1918 Pestilence in Samoa

The armistice has paused the fighting on the Western Front, but the struggle of mankind against the influenza pandemic continues. The second, extremely virulent strain of the epidemic is cutting a swathe across the world, bringing death and destruction to places that the war barely touched. One of these is German Samoa, which has been occupied by New Zealand since 1914. Unlike in nearby American Samoa, the New Zealanders failed to institute an effective quarantine, so when a ship landed in November, its infected passengers were able to spread the contagion throughout the colony.

The Samoans prove to be exceptionally vulnerable to the influenza. By now nearly 90% of them have been infected and a fifth of the islanders (7,542 people) have died. In American Samoa however the governor’s quarantine has meant that there have been no flu cases. As the shock of the last two months of horror begin to pass, the German Samoans begin to compare their situation with that of their neighbours, seeing their calamity as the product of New Zealand’s maladministration. Some begin to argue that if they cannot be entirely free of imperialist shackles they would be better off under US rule.

image sources:

New Zealand news paper report (New Zealand History: Reporting Samoa’s influenza pandemic)

Samoan obituaries (New Zealand History: Samoan influenza obituaries)

7/11/1918 The ship of death arrives in German Samoa #1918Live

The influenza pandemic is spreading across the world, its tentacles reaching even communities that the war has largely passed by. The most vulnerable to this pestilence are those living in isolated communities, whose lack of exposure to common ailments leaves them with weakened immune systems. Recognising this, the authorities in some of these places institute quarantine regimes to prevent ill persons arriving and infecting the local inhabitants. In American Samoa the governor, John Martin Poyer, does just that, keeping sick arrivals onboard their ships to prevent the flu’s spread to his islands.

The situation is different in nearby German Samoa. This cluster of islands has been under New Zealand occupation for almost the whole of the war. Robert Logan is the governor here but unlike his American counterpart he is not overly concerned about the threat of influenza. No serious quarantine is instituted.

Today the Talune arrives in German Samoa, carrying cargo and passengers from New Zealand. The ship is also carrying the Spanish Flu, as several of its passengers are seriously ill with the influenza. They disembark and make their way into the local community, carrying death with them.

image source:

The SS Talune in 1908 (New Zealand History: Influenza hits Samoa)

18/4/1917 The Seeadler makes its way into the Pacific

German raider the Seeadler has been prowling in the Atlantic, attacking Allied merchant ships. The British have had enough of this impertinent ship and have despatched their own warships to hunt it down. But the Seeadler is caught by a storm which blows it far to the south. From here its captain, Felix von Luckner, decides to make his way round Cape Horn and into the Pacific. Thus he leaves behind his pursuers and prepares to prey upon the bountiful shipping of the world’s largest ocean.

image source: The Seeadler (Ahoy – Mac’s Web Log)

23/3/1915 Singapore: mutineers executed

Indian Muslim troops in the British army mutinied in Singapore on the 15th of February. Now the mutiny is over. Some of the mutineers have been killed in combat, others have been rounded up and put on trial. Some are transported or given long prison sentences but some 47 are sentenced to death. Today they are executed by firing squad in public executions watched by some 15,000 people.

image source (Wikipedia)

14/3/1915 The very short naval battle of Más a Tierra

When Admiral Spee’s fleet was destroyed at the Battle of the Falklands, one German ship escaped. This was the Dresden, commanded by Captain Fritz Lüdecke. But today the Dresden meets her doom. Britain had left a large force of ships in the South Atlantic and South East Pacific to hunt down the Dresden and prevent it from preying on British trade. They trap the German cruiser in the port of Cumberland Bay on the Chilean Island of Más a Tierra. When Lüdecke declines to surrender, the British squadron opens fire. After five minutes of pulverising fire, the Dresden is on fire, with many of its guns already disabled. Lüdecke raises the white flag and his crew abandon ship. The Dresden scuttled to prevent it falling into British hands.
Germany no longer has any ships at loose on the high seas. The main German fleet is stuck in port in Wilhemshaven. The Goeben and Breslau have free rein in the Black Sea, but would be destroyed were they to venture through the Straits into the Aegean.

Germany has one other naval asset that is confined to neither Wilhelmhaven nor the Black Sea. The Königsberg, a light cruiser, is based in German East Africa. The Germans had hoped to use this ship to disrupt British trade in the Indian Ocean but the ship is now trapped in the Rufiji Delta by British warships.

The only challenge Germany can mount to allied control of the seas is from its fleet of U-boat submarines.

The Dresden raises the white flag (Wikipedia)

Rufiji Delta (Naval-History.net)

17/2/1915 Singapore: a mutiny crushed

Britain’s colony of Singapore has been engulfed by fighting as mutinous Indian troops have battled the British and other loyal colonial soldiers. Now the tide turns against the mutineers. Heeding calls for help, French, Japanese and Russian warships arrive in Singapore and land their marines. After a short battle many of the mutineers surrender. Others flee into the countryside outside the city. The mutiny is effectively over.

15/2/1915 Mutiny in Singapore

The response to the Turkish Sultan’s call for a Holy War against the Allied powers has been disappointing. Egyptians and Muslim Indian troops in the British army did not turn on the Infidel when Turkish forces recently attacked the Suez Canal. On the other hand, the bizarre episode of the Ice Cream Jihad in Australia’s Broken Hill suggests that there are those who will heed the Caliph’s call to arms.

In Singapore a Muslim unit of the Indian army is preparing to be transferred to Hong Kong to replace another regiment there. However, rumours circulate among the Indians that they will actually be sent to the Western Front or perhaps to fight against the Turks, their fellow Muslims. Agitators supporting an armed uprising against British rule in India seem also to be influencing the soldiers. Today they revolt against their British masters, killing two British officers who try to restore order.

There are few loyal troops in Singapore. The mutineers fan out, seizing arms and ammunition and killing British officers and civilians. They attack a barracks where German nationals are being interned, including some of the crew the Emden. The mutineers try to recruit the Germans to their cause, but they refuse to join them.

Some British and Malay troops are able to block the mutineers from advancing into downtown Singapore. The British also send wireless messages requesting help from any Allied ships nearby.

image source (Goodreads)

1/1/1915 Broken Hill: Jihad comes to Australia

Mehmed V, Sultan of the Ottoman Empire, is also Caliph, successor of the Prophet and leader of all true Muslims everywhere. Or so he thinks. He has proclaimed a jihad against the enemies of Turkey, ordering all true Muslims to fight against Britain, France, Russia and other Allied countries.

Turkey’s leaders had hoped that the proclamation of jihad would lead to revolts by the Muslim subjects of their enemies. Results have proved somewhat disappointing and Muslims in the enemy empires are showing no great interest in waging holy war.

But now jihad erupts in the somewhat unlikely setting of Australia. At Broken Hill in New South Wales, two Muslim immigrants from British India decide to heed the Caliph’s call. Badsha Mahommed Gool raises the Turkish flag over his ice cream cart and together with Mullah Abdullah, a halal butcher and imam, they launch their own short lived jihad.

Gool and Abdullah initially attack a train carrying members of the Order of Oddfellows to a picnic site. They shoot at the picnickers with rifles concealed in the ice cream cart, killing two and injuring several more. They then take cover in a quartz outcrop where they are attacked by policemen and soldiers. After a 90 minute gun battle they are both killed. There are reports that Gool is gunned down as he tries to surrender.

source of both images (The Battle of Broken Hill, from Smithsonian.com)

14/11/1914 Australia seizes Nauru

Nauru is a German-controlled island in the Pacific. Although small, the island is a major producer of phosphates. Perhaps because of its size and remoteness, Nauru has not been troubled since the start of the war, but now the Australians remember its existence. An Australian naval force lands and adds Nauru to the list of Germany’s Pacific possessions that have been gobbled up by the Allies. The German authorities on the island appear not to put up any resistance.

image source (Wikipedia)

7/11/1914 The fall of Tsingtao

Japanese forces have been besieging Tsingtao in China, where Germany has a naval base. The British have also sent troops to the siege but they do not seem to have been of any great help.

The Germans have resisted manfully for the last two months but their situation is now untenable. Japanese bombardments and carefully planned assaults on the town’s defences have left the defenders on the brink of collapse. Now the Germans accept the inevitable and seek terms for an honourable surrender.

image source (Wikipedia)