27/1/1919 Dividing up Germany’s colonies

The Paris Conference is looking at how to dispose of Germany’s colonial possessions, with the leaders of different countries calling for their share of the spoils. Prime Minister Botha and General Smuts have proposed that South Africa should have South West Africa, conquered by them in 1915. Billy Hughes of Australia claims New Guinea and nearby islands as being vital for his country’s future security. New Zealand’s Massey seeks formerly German Samoa for his country, affirming the high regard in which New Zealanders are held by the Samoans (who are in fact petitioning to be ruled by Britain or the United States or indeed any country other than New Zealand, whose maladministration of the islands has seen a fifth of their inhabitants die of influenza). And Japan’s Makino is looking for the German islands in the Pacific his country’s armed forces occupied in 1914, as well as Tsingtao and the surrounding Shantung peninsula (which disturbs the Americans, who are sympathetic to Chinese demands that the peninsula be returned to them). The French meanwhile are looking for Togoland and Cameroon (known to the Germans as Kamerun) and the British for German East Africa.

In the old days victorious powers in wars were able to simply annex territories and possessions captured from their enemies, but President Wilson of the United States wishes to consign such vulgar ways to the dustbin of history. Instead of taking on conquered territories as new colonies, he is insisting that Germany’s former colonies are divided out among the Allies as mandates, with the mandated authorities charged with preparing the territories for self-government and independence. It is taken for granted that it will be some time before the native peoples are ready to rule themselves, but Wilson is insistent that the mandates are not to be thought of as simply additions to the victors’ empires. The Allied leaders may have other ideas, but for now they are willing to humour the American President.

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)