Abba Saliou, From the battlefield to cemeteries and reinstatement:  a trajectory of soldiers during the First World War in Cameroon (1914-1916)

Nearly a hundred year ago after, the First World War event continues to fascinate social scientists. Much literature demonstrate that the question is far to be exhaustive. Indeed, colored combat uniforms, military troops involved in the conflict, officer’s strategies tactics and logistics options constitute the essential subjects of reflection among military historians of the Western world. The study of the European front is then well structured with thematic scheme and school of thoughts on the attitudes of the various combatants throughout the campaigns, this at the expense of the overseas world which is neglected and even forsaken by the specialists of military history. The analysis concerning the participation of the African manpower in Western fronts was rather orientated to the battle history approach. Questions dealing with their life conditions within the war was absent of the bibliography regarding the thematic of the Great War issue. As matter of fact, the military reports concerning the African scene where colonial powers faced themselves do not give any explicit information on the implications of the war toward the soldiers. The most plausible case is the conquest of German possessions in West Africa particularly in Kamerun nowadays called Cameroon, where emphasis is put on the description of military operations by British, Belgian and French soldiers who were engaged in the campaign. Moreover, consequences of these conflicts are mainly analyzed from the political angle, with a focus on the British and French colonial administrative officers in the territory.

Nevertheless, colonial armed forces were not only a coercive tool at the service of the imperialist purposes; they were also an institution which regroups individuals from different social backgrounds. This heterogeneity led to the edification of homogenized forces with a particular destiny, and called to follow a particular type of relation with a new environment before, during and after the battles. This paradox raises questions about the process of their enrollment and their fate after the war. The situation of the colonial soldiers in the tropical front is still to be explored contrary to the European front where socio cultural aspect is developed since decade by the “l’Historial de Peronne” research group. Our contribution through this scientific meeting is related to the thematic on the social and culture history of soldiers in colonial army.

The objective of this paper is to propose through the new military history perspective, a different view based on a social reading of the Great War campaign on the African front and particularly in German Kamerun. It retraces the itinerary of the soldier-before the beginning of the war in 6th august 1914-considered as an individual living in an alternating environment characterized by extreme violence and peace-after the end of the conflict in 18th February 1916. The inquiries are based on the collection and analysis of available sources which will confirm the hypothesis that in Cameroon the Great War set in place a new context which had implications in the social life of the soldier. This begins with his voluntary enrollment or by obligation into the military colonial forces; the process was made possible with the complicity of traditional authorities. During this period, the enlistment caused the depopulation of villages which had as corollary the destruction of the social ties even the deconstruction of the profile of the soldier initiated by the binding environment. This situation contributed to the creation of a new identity. This suffering continued during the campaigns in which the soldier underwent pain, sorrow and sometimes confronted death within or after the battles. Those who lose their life are buried according to the military tradition. For the officer notably the European, the colonial army authorities organize a military tribute and cemeteries while the troops essentially composed of Africans died in anonymity, gathered in a pauper’s grave and their names wipe out from the memory and the history. Some survivors were taken to sanitarium where they received medical care while others were treated in the battlefield. After their recovery, they had to overcome challenges like the reconversion to the new context far from their homeland.


Alun Edwards, Europeana 1914-1918 & Crowdsourcing collections – for teaching & research

Europeana 1914-1918 is a campaign led by the University of Oxford with Europeana since 2011 to gather family stories and digital photos of artefacts from the First World War, from the general public, from across Europe.

This builds on the success of The Great War Archive[1], part of the First World War Poetry Digital Archive, based at the University of Oxford. The Oxford Community Collection Model brings together online collection and face-to-face engagement, and has been successfully used to create digital, user-generated collections since 2008.

Europeana 1914-1918 website

The general public can upload their photographs to the project website http://www.europeana1914-1918.eu/ along with their story in their own language. There is a brief set of metadata they must fill in as the form leads the public through the process of recording some further detail of their story.

Family history roadshows

Not everyone will have access to the Internet. Therefore we have run campaigns to gather user-generated content in: Belgium; Italy; Slovenia, Ireland, Cyprus, Denmark, UK, Luxembourg, Germany. In general this involves a local team running a series of family history roadshows.

The prime objective of these roadshows is to provide the press and broadcast media with something tangible to record. Their broadcasts and articles raise the awareness of Europeana and specifically of the request for the public to contribute their family stories about the First World War to the website of Europeana 1914-1918http://europeana1914-1918.eu/. In the lead up to the roadshow the website will have been translated into the native language of the local audience, and a press and communications campaign will have been run locally.

Significant news coverage has been a feature of all of the roadshows – sometimes live – e.g. Ireland[2], Italy[3], and Belgium[4]. Europeana also created their own video of “Europeana: An impression of our 1914-1918 Roadshows”.[5]

During the family history roadshows the local team record the stories brought by the public. The local team also make digital copies with digital cameras, scanners, voice recorders and video cameras, of any artefacts the public bring in relating to their story. Many people may visit the venue during the roadshow to see what is happening and take away literature about Europeana and the project.

The local team explain to the member of the public the license agreement under which this material will be distributed.[6] When the contributor’s story has been recorded it is typed in to the Europeana 1914-1918 website by one of the local team, and any photographs (the “files”) taken are uploaded and added to the story which is made live on the public website for Europeana 1914-1918.

On the website stories may be browsed by theme, for example “trench life” or “the home front” or “women”. Visitors to the website may also search for stories. Periodically the stories (metadata and files) are ingested by Europeana into their online portal, alongside museum, library and archival material from across Europe.


Staff guidelines for Europeana 1914-1918 are published at the University of Oxford site “RunCoCo: How to run a community collection online”[7] and are all freely available to download. We have trained local staff to run their own World War One family history roadshows. Usually the approach is to coach a local manager to prepare for, and train local staff for, the roadshows.

Value of the collection

Europeana 1914-1918’s collection includes everything from letters to medals, trench art pieces and uniforms, and even a postcard from the young Adolf Hitler about his dental treatment in 1916.

Fascinating as this is, it may reasonably be asked what use or meaning such an eclectic ‘collection’ actually has. Analysis is as yet in its earliest stages, nevertheless it is already clear both from the material, and from the contributors, that Europeana 1914-1918 has more than one form of ‘value’. The presentation will be illustrated with images from across Europe, including Portugal, and reflect subject which will include the war in Africa. The values which we will examine include:

  • Preservation
  • A friendly face for many institutions
  • Research potential
  • Education
  • What does Europe do for me?


Anne Samson, South Africa and its neighbours South Africa, as a country, came into being with Union in May 1910

This meant that when war broke out in August 1914, South Africa’s relationships with its neighbouring countries was still being defined or, rather, redefined. Until 1910, the territories making up the Union had established relationships with the various surrounding territories, some of which were also managed or controlled by Britain. The Union’s immediate neighbours were German South West Africa, Portuguese East Africa (Mozambique) and the two British territories of Bechuanaland, a protectorate, and Southern Rhodesia, managed by the British South Africa Company. For the purposes of this paper, South Africa’s neighbours will include Portuguese Angola, Belgian Katanga (Congo) and German East Africa. Although these territories might appear removed from the borders of South Africa, they were regarded as potential neighbours as South Africa was in discussion with Britain regarding its borders.

This paper will provide an overview of South Africa’s relationships with its neighbours, including India which had close links with a number of the Eastern and Southern African territories. The hope is that the paper will enable future, more in-depth collaborative studies of the region showing the complexity of local and international links between Europe and its African territories.

António Paulo Duarte, A Outra Flandres: a Grande Guerra em Moçambique (Ensaio Político – Estratégico)

O ano de 1916 não foi marcado apenas pela declaração de guerra da Alemanha a Portugal e pelo início da preparação do envio do Corpo Expedicionário Português para a Flandres. No final desse ano, Portugal empenhou um forte contingente de uma dezena de milhar de soldados na ofensiva contra o Tanganica. Tratava-se, como na Flandres, de evidenciar o contributo de Portugal para o esforço de guerra aliado, uma visibilidade que consignaria igualmente, assim se esperava, ganhos territoriais efetivos em África.

A uma estratégia meramente defensiva das possessões coloniais portuguesas nos anos de 1914 e 1915, quer em Angola, quer em Moçambique, opunha-se a estratégia ofensiva de fins de 1916-1917 em Moçambique. A expectativa de que a Campanha da África Oriental Alemã terminasse nos fins de 1916, com a conquista da África Oriental Alemã pelos aliados, tornava mais imperiosa uma ação político-estratégica na última frente africana da Grande Guerra.

A presente conferência propõe-se analisar a visão política e estratégica portuguesa da guerra em Moçambique em 1916 e 1917. Procurará ligar o projeto delineado em Lisboa com a ação estratégico – militar em Moçambique, inserindo-o igualmente na política de guerra da União sagrada.

A Campanha do Rovuma de 1916-1917 não foi um triste acaso, nem uma trágica consequência ocasionada pelo estado de guerra na Europa, mas uma ação deliberada de Portugal, num quadro em tudo similar ao que o Corpo Expedicionário Português desenvolveu na Flandres, como vista a assegurar uma maior visibilidade e um prestígio acrescido de Portugal na vida internacional e na aliança em que se inserira.

Tratava-se de agir ofensivamente, assegurando a posse de território inimigo, que assegurasse não só a ampliação das possessões portuguesas em África, como reforçasse o prestígio das armas nacionais.

A ação bélica em África era concomitante com a manobra estratégica desenvolvida na Europa.

E como sucedeu na Flandres, e em escala bem mais gravosa, a impreparação de Portugal para a guerra em África e as debilidades bélicas das forças militares portuguesas, no teatro de guerra africano, tiveram por consequência que uma ação ofensiva se tornasse num desastre marcial extraordinariamente gravoso para o prestígio das armas nacionais.

Esta narrativa organizar-se-á em redor de três tempos. A situação político – militar de Portugal em África em 1914 e 1915. A política de guerra para a África imediatamente a seguir à declaração de guerra da Alemanha a Portugal e as instruções dadas de Lisboa às forças militares em Moçambique. A campanha militar do Rovuma, os seus objetivos, as suas possibilidades e as suas consequências.


Bjarne Søndergaard Bendtsen, Aarhus University, Denmark, “Verdammte Tropennacht ohne Sterne” – navigating nationality aboard the blockade runner Marie

Even though Denmark managed to retain its neutrality throughout the First World War, a substantial number of Danish – or rather Danish speaking – men participated in the war, for the most part as conscripts in the German army and navy. Among these soldiers, two groups were hand-picked as crews for secret naval missions: that of the blockade runner Kronborg or Rubens as was her real name, and that of the Speerbrecher 15: the SS Marie of Stettin. The former left Wilhelmshafen in January 1915, bound for German East Africa with supplies for the light cruiser Königsberg and Lettow-Vorbeck’s troops; the latter set out on a similar mission a year later in January 1916, most of the long journey disguised as the Danish merchant steamer Nordamerika. The Kronborg was attacked and destroyed by the British cruiser Hyacinth as it reached East Africa 14 April 1915, but her captain managed to rescue the cargo by a shrewd scheme that need not be touched upon here; the Marie succeeded in running the blockade and unload most of her cargo at the Ssudi Bay, but was eventually discovered and attacked by British naval vessels. Nevertheless, her crew managed to repair the ship and sail to neutral Dutch Batavia, and, for some of them, eventually get back to Germany. As the Marie left Wilhelmshafen, she was first disguised as the Swedish steamer Ajax, until in open seas she was turned into the Danish steamer Nordamerika, and finally, as she reached East Africa off Lindi, changed names back to the Marie.

The paper will first give a brief sketch of the remarkable journey of this Speerbrecher, based on different published narrations about it. Then, and primarily, examine the way the ‘Danes’ are portrayed in the literature about the mission, how they described their encounters with Africa, and how national identity played a part in a mission like this one – if it did play any part at all. Other questions the paper will seek to answer are: How were the Danish speaking soldiers who were enrolled in the German Schutztruppe in German East Africa treated in Danish/German literature during and after the war? When was the fact that the German blockade runners were disguised as Danish merchant vessels revealed, and how was this received in Denmark? The Germans seem to have been proud of the crafty enterprises but not to have told this side of the story – at least not in the books published during the war: Captain Carl Christiansen’s narration of the journey with the Kronborg: Durch! Mit Kriegsmateriel zu Lettow-Vorbeck (1918), Johannes Lensch’s narration of stoker Knud Knudsen’s adventures with the Marie: Knud Knudsens Fahrt nach Ostafrika (1918) or K.E. Selow-Serman’s Blockade-Brecher (1917) also about the Marie. In a much later book: Peter Eckert’s Blockadebrecher „Marie”: Abenteuer-Fahrten des Kapitäns Sörensen im Weltkrieg (1937), the veil had, however, been lifted, as it had in Chr. P. Christensen’s Danish book about the adventures of Nis Kock aboard the Kronborg: Sønderjyder forsvarer Østafrika 1914-1918 (1937). What happened in the intervening years? Did any of these narratives touch upon issues of nationality and neutrality: that the scheme of disguising the ships as Danish merchant vessels could endanger real Danish ships and maybe the country’s neutrality as such? Or did they rather focus on the adventurous sides of the journeys?


Brian Digre, The Scramble Renewed:  Allied War Aims toward Africa, 1914-1919

The First World War was a seminal event in the history of Africa under colonial rule.  It led to a major repartition of colonial empires and, along with the Paris Peace Conference, gave birth to the mandate system of the League of Nations.  For millions of Africans it also meant untold suffering in a conflict not their own.

This paper examines the African war aims of Britain, France and Belgium toward Germany’s colonies.   In doing so, it discusses African perspectives as well as Allied efforts to manufacture African views in favor of their colonial expansion.  It also explores how South African and Portuguese interests were incorporated into the postwar settlement as well the American role in the creation of the mandates.  Wartime events produced new incentives, but there existed a strong continuity with previous aims.

In West and Central Africa, the French desire to improve the access of their colonial federations to the sea, combined with their claims for colonial compensation due to Britain’s gains elsewhere, formed the critical determinants in the partition of Cameroon and Togo.   British decision makers’ priorities were to secure German Southwest Africa as a reward for the Union of South Africa’s wartime support and to acquire German East Africa.  British policy conformed with their traditional interest in controlling the route to India, while submarine warfare, along with the Königsberg episode, provided new military motives.   Revived interest in the Cape-to-Cairo railway scheme, although recognized by many British policy makers as highly impractical, provided additional geographic appeal for acquiring German East Africa.

Belgian colonial aims reflected the anxieties of a small state.  At first afraid that the Belgian Congo might be sacrificed in a compromise peace, Belgian officials came to view offensive action in East African as a way to restore their prestige among the Congolese.  In an opportunistic fashion, they sought to negotiate a brazen set of colonial exchanges to address the geographical anomaly of the Congo’s tiny coastline.  Only in the face of determined Portuguese unwillingness to surrender any of northern Angola did the Belgians abandon this plan and retain Burundi and Rwanda.

At the end of the war the Allies advanced the self-serving argument that African preferences and interests justified the confiscation of Germany’s colonies.  In fact, African voices were not completely silent, despite their rhetoric the colonial powers were not listing.  American objections to outright imperialist annexations did lead to half-hearted European acceptance of mandates rather than colonies.

My study is based on archival research in the United Kingdom at the National Archives, the House of Lords Record Office and the Bodleian Library; in France at the Archives du Ministère des Affaires Etrangères and the Archives Nationales, Section Outre-Mer; and in Belgium at the Archives du Ministère des Affaires Etrangères and the Archives Générales du Royaume.   For African perspectives, I have used contemporary sources such as the newspaper The Gold Coast Leader.  I also have consulted the diary of George Louis Beer, American historian and African expert at the Peace Conference, at the Library of Congress in the USA.


Claudio Forjaz, O combate não convencional na África durante a I Guerra Mundial

O período marcado pelo final do século XIX e o início do XX foi marcado por um desenvolvimento da humanidade sem precedente até então. Similar ao que vivemos hoje, havia uma crescente globalização, tendo a Europa como protagonista dessa cena e a África e a Ásia como palco. Vivia-se o que chamavam de “La Belle Époque”, onde o centro das atenções mundiais era traduzido por refinados transeuntes descobrindo modernas máquinas motoras que iam cortando o ar, o mar e a terra. Nos locais periféricos, um misto de desbravamento e de trabalho duro era exigido para manter as metrópoles a pleno vapor.

O principal marco da ocupação da África é a Conferência de Berlim, proposta por Portugal e capitaneada pela Alemanha, ela ocorreu no biênio 1884-1885. Com o objetivo de organizar e legalizar a ocupação da África pelas potências coloniais europeias,  acabou resultando numa divisão política que não respeitou, nem a história, nem as relações étnicas e familiares dos povos desse continente. Todavia um evento posterior reorganizaria o mapa africano, com conseqüências sentidas até os dias de hoje: a I Guerra Mundial.

Tal qual o anterior, seu legado, principalmente o militar, transformaria o continente, abrindo caminho para uma conscientização de parte da população de seu valor em armas e do grande leque de oportunidades que poderiam aproveitar na luta por sua autodeterminação.

E é justamente a origem do mais bem sucedido tipo de guerra que seria adotado pelos movimentos de independência que abordaremos neste artigo, destacando aquele em que o nativo fez a diferença entre a vitória e a derrota. E seu reflexo é tão importante que eles serviriam como um dos alicerces da mais discutida teoria militar atual: a da guerra de quarta geração.

Para tanto, realizaremos uma pesquisa histórica inicial para coligir dados e ressaltar conceitos, destacando opiniões e argumentos, relacionando-os até chegarmos a um denominador comum. Depois analisaremos os aspectos relevantes e abrangentes do estudo, colimando-os até que sua reflexão nos conduza a uma maior profundidade e racionalidade na argumentação final.

A fim de levarmos a cabo esta apreciação, nos utilizaremos de métodos empregados pelo Exército Brasileiro que integram a análise cartesiana à síntese holística, dando complementariedade à solução do problema. Tal método é o preconizado na Escola Superior de Guerra (ESG) e o de Tiago de Castro e Castro onde a pesquisa, a decomposição do tema em partes, a síntese e a conclusão fornecerão os ingredientes, a significação e a importância histórica do mesmo. Tudo isso para que as ideias concebidas sejam geradas a partir da integração de dezenas de pensamentos elementares.

Como a História é o registro de acontecimentos notáveis vividos pela humanidade, bem como a análise de suas causas e conseqüências, investigaremos episódios militares ocorridos na África durante a I Guerra Mundial. Nesse bojo, focaremos os da guerra não convencional, como os alemães na África Oriental e o apoio dos ingleses à luta contra o Império Otomano, a partir do Egito.

A importância desses estudos se traduz porque seria a luta irregular a que mais impactaria os movimentos africanos futuros, quer fossem os de independência, quer os de guerra civil.

Finalmente, abrindo caminho para uma abordagem original, identificaremos um vetor corolário, que servirá de norte para podemos extrair ensinamentos para o presente e para o futuro, desejo desta apresentação.

Por fim, a visibilidade deste evento, bem como sua projeção pela divulgação dos trabalhos é que trará o interesse necessário à comunidade científica, para que possa prosseguir, ou não, nos estudos a respeito desse fascinante tema.


David Aworawo, The Indispensable Third Party: Spanish Guinea and Anglo-German Campaigns in the Cameroons During the First World War

Shortly after the outbreak of the First World War in July 1914, the Allies and Central powers tried to gain advantage in the war by attacking the colonies of rival states for strategic reasons and also to prevent them from accessing the resources of the colonies to support the war efforts. It was this consideration that influenced the attack and conquest of the German colony of Togo by the Allies in September 1914. The Allies were also desirous of capturing the Cameroons from Germany to deprive the Central Powers of resources from the territory and use of its important port of Douala. However, the strategically located territory of Spanish Guinea with its mainland territory of Rio Muni bordering Cameroon and its important island of Fernando Po occupying a vital strategic position in Equatorial Africa, was recognized as critical to any effective military campaign in Cameroon. The implication of this was that the support of Spain had to be  sought in the military campaign in the Cameroons. Spain, for its part, had professed neutrality at the outbreak of World War I, but its actions  towards Germany and Britain before and during the war, and especially during the campaign in Cameroon, reveals that Spain was sympathetic to Germany and by so doing tilted the balance in German favour.  Before the outbreak of the First World War, Germany had established a wireless transmission station in the island of Fernando Po which was put into effective use by the Germans during the First World War. The British authorities claimed that Germany was using the transmission station in Fernando Po to transmit messages to Berlin and to German warships on West African waters and therefore Spain was by implication aiding German war efforts. Pressure was mounted on the Spanish Minister of State in Madrid to stop the Germans from utilizing facilities in Spanish Guinea. The pressure by the British to get Spain to take action against the Germans however yielded very little positive result  and the Germans continued to use the transmitting station in Fernando Po. In addition, the British felt very strongly that the Spanish assisted the Germans in smuggling arms through Equatorial Guinea to support German campaigns in Cameroon and British General Charles Dobell, who commanded the Allied expeditionary to the Cameroons consistently drew attention to this challenge to Allies campaign. On several other issues such as that involving the ‘SS Mediterraneo’ in November 1914, the murder of two Germans by British soldiers on the soil of Spanish-controlled Equatorial Guinea, and the provision of shelter for many German refugees who escaped from Cameroon to Spanish Guinea in the course of the war, Spain was brought into the centre of Anglo-German rivalry in Cameroon. Faced with so many challenges,  Britain was forced to take extraordinary measures to ensure victory over Germany in the campaigns in Cameroon. The reality however is that some have disputed some of the claims by the British regarding Spanish support for Germany during the campaigns in Equatorial Africa. This paper explores the myth and reality of Spanish influence on Anglo-German campaign in the Cameroons through its strategically-located controlled territory of Equatorial Guinea. It should contribute to the understanding of aspects of Africa’s involvement in the First World War.


Donald O. Omagu, Fighting at Home and Abroad: Reflections on the Great War, Africans and African Americans’ Struggle for Liberation in the Twentieth Century

Many African Americans, enlisted to fight in the Great War of 1914 -1918 in spite of the endemic discrimination and segregation in the United States, primarily to show their patriotism that could improve their opportunities and treatment in a racially charged environment back home. Disproportionately African American men enlisted in the military, including veterans of World War I that came home were confronted with violence and ingratitude. Driven by a determination to bring changes the NAACP and other organizations led an onslaught against discrimination and segregation in the United States. Similarly, within the African continent the shabby treatment of demobilized African soldiers prompted a large number of disaffected, but also politicized and radicalized veterans to spark off political activity in Africa, led by NCBWA. This paper examines the contributions of Africans and African Americans in the struggle for liberation in the Black Atlantic which were immense yet overlooked by some Eurocentric scholars. The paper in addition, discusses how World War I as an unintended outcome became a transformative agency for the advancement of African and African Americans social consciousness and a sense of political empowerment in the early 20th century.


Donald O. Omagu,  “Globalization of Conflicts”: A Discourse of the Dispute of Empires in Africa and the Great War of 1914 – 1918.

The 19th century, witness the transition from the “informal” imperialism of control through military influence and economic dominance to that of direct rule.” Attempts to cushion imperial competition, culminating in the Berlin Conference (1884 – 1885) failed to establish definitively the competing powers’ claims over spheres of influence in Africa. The tensions between the imperial powers over Africa were among the central factors precipitating the First World War. Apart from Ethiopia and Liberia Africa was disproportionately shared among European powers between 1885 and 1914 with Britain amassing nearly 30% of Africa’s population under its control, 15% for France, 9% went to Germany, 7% to Belgium and 1% to Italy. This colonial rivalry finally exploded in August 1914, when previous rivalries and alliances created a domino situation that drew the major European nations into the war. Africans had the vaguest understanding of what the First World War was about. Notwithstanding, with the cooperation of local leaders and chiefs, European powers were able to raise the troops and carriers from the continent to help in their war efforts. This paper offers explanation as to why the various black regiments and carriers that played a major part in the fighting though mentioned are not given the same attention as their “European” counterparts. The paper further offers opportunities to learn more about the First World War’s, theatres of the war and the contributions of Africans from an Afrocentric perspective.


Fewzi Borsali, WW1 and its impact on the Gold Coast

Relations between peoples are natural and constitute the driving force of history, the consequences of which result in dominating and dominated social categories that create, reproduce or oppose respectively a dominating production pattern. During their colonial rule, the British, like other European colonial powers, attempted to integrate gradually the West African societies in their imperialistic mode of production either directly or indirectly. Patterns of government were devised within the framework of British concept of ‘law and order’ with a view to seeking the collaboration of the traditional authorities and undoubtedly subjecting West Africans to the primacy of British self-interest particularly during the war when Imperial stability was threatened.

Though involvement in the war implied State intervention, British officials did not depart from ‘laissez-faire’ principle and that of colonial financial self-sufficiency. The latter was however to suffer from the loss of considerable revenues which heavily derived from exports to Germany. On the other hand, the Gold Coast colony, under Colonial Governor, H. Clifford, though replaced by R. Slater when on leave, had to contribute to the war effort in human, material and financial resources. Such contributions had multidimensional effects on the Gold Coast during and after the war, particularly under F. Guggisberg governorship. The paper attempts to examine the changes that took place in the Gold Coast during the war and immediately after, to assess the measures taken by the Colonial officials so as to secure collaboration with Gold Coast chiefs and elite, their impact on center-periphery relationship and   the reconstruction of the concept of Empire building.


George Njung, Soldiers of their own: The Costal Duala and the Bamenda Grassland Soldiers in the Great War in Cameroon, 1914-1916

In August 1914 shortly after the declaration of the first global war, a combined Anglo-French force invaded the German territory of Cameroon and massively employed Cameroonians and other Africans against the Germans. With the use of these Africans, the Germans were eventually defeated in a campaign that lasted till February 1916. In the said campaign, over 10,000 Cameroonians and other Africans were employed as soldiers and in other war related capacities. Whereas European trained African standing armies had been used in other campaigns in Africa, the Cameroon campaign was quite unique. For the most part, Cameroonians were recruited on the spot and began fighting for the Allies with little or no European training. This paper will make a twofold argument.

First, it argues that the Cameroon Bamenda grassland soldiers who fought for the British to ensure German defeat were soldiers of their own. By soldiers of their own – from which I derive this paper title – , I mean that these soldiers for the most part had and used their own training, were already professional warriors and mercenaries before being hired by the British, used their own military skills, personal knowledge of the terrain, and made personal sacrifices to ensure Allied victory. Yet the Allies ended up appropriating victory for themselves and treating the war solely as a European affair, with Africans called upon to perform subsidiary roles, trained and led by the Europeans. These Cameroonians were not trained by the Europeans, nor were they even led. At best, they were coordinated by European military officers. At worse, they were used.

Second, the paper will argue that in the war, the spirit and act of resistance against the Germans was rekindled as most Cameroonians who joined the Allies saw it as an opportunity to continue their resistance against the Germans. The paper will demonstrate therefore that Cameroonian support for the Allies was indeed a form of resistance to German colonialism. In this way, the defeat and ousting of the Germans in and from Cameroon by 1916 could be regarded as Cameroonian victory against the Germans with allied support and not the other way round; Allied victory with Cameroonian support. The war against the Germans in Cameroon did not start in 1914. It started shortly after German annexation of the territory and lingered on till 1914. The global war in 1914 simply subsumed it. The paper will substantiate this second argument with the assistance that the coastal people of Douala and their neighbours gave to the Allies and ensured German defeat in that region in the early days of the war in Cameroon.

As we approach the centenary of the Great War, it is now time for scholars and historians of Africa to begin to research deep into the war and provide an empirically founded reinterpretation. The time for the preponderance of the Eurocentric view, I belief, should now be a thing of the past. In fairness however, the so far Eurocentric accounts have survived largely in part due to the fact that Europeans who participated in the war left behind numerous sources, including personal diaries, something which most of the African participants were never able to do. But with the passage of time, the uncovering of diverse research techniques, individual, collective and embodied memories, historians can no longer continue to lament for paucity of sources as the  raison d’être for the underrepresentation of African participation in the war. Intriguing questions that one would be curious to meditate on are; was it WW1 in Africa or Africa in WW1? Could the Allies have simply invaded Cameroon and defeated the Germans if Cameroonians choose to fight for the Germans or just stayed aloof? Who was really responsible for the defeat of the Germans in Cameroon, the Allies or Cameroonians themselves? What are the useful analytical tools through which historians could begin to reinterpret the history of the Great War in Africa?


Jacqueline de Vries, The internment and repatriation of German-Cameroonian soldiers in Fernando Po, 1916-1919

When the Germans were ousted from Cameroon, they sought refuge in Spanish Muni. Thousands of Cameroonian troops, carriers and servants followed the Germans across the border to Bata, together with their women and servants and in some cases entire villages loyal to the Germans. From the mainland, over 20 000 Cameroonians were transferred to Fernando Po in 1916, where they remained until after the close of the war.

The lengthy sojourn of the Cameroonian recruits and their followers on Fernando Po made the British very nervous: the military camps in which the troops lived could hardly be considered wartime internment. The troops were supervised by German officers and continued German military drills, initially unarmed but later – after several large weapon consignments had been smuggled into the territory – fully armed. The British feared an armed attack on Cameroon, and German records show that indeed preparations were being made in 1916 to re-mobilize the troops. Britain pressed for speedy repatriation, to no avail. Spanish authorities on Fernando Po were accused of pro-German sympathies, and clearly had an interest in keeping the troops on the island, hoping that the influx of Cameroonians would relieve the problem of labour shortages on cocoa plantations and to boost the island’s economy. The German-Cameroonian military presence far outnumbered that of the Spanish, which consisted of about 100 officers or colonial officials. Had they wanted to, the Spanish authorities on Fernando Po would not have been in a position to prevent the Germans from carrying out an attack on the mainland.

The internment was effectively run by the Germans, and not the Spanish. The troops were herded into three or four camps, all headed by German officers or non-commissioned officers. They in turn were headed by the German Governor for Kamerun, Ebermaier, who had established a kind of interim government in Santa Isabel with the co-operation of the Spanish. Orders were given in German or in German and Spanish. The troops were interned together according to the companies in which they had fought during the war. Each camp housed several thousand Cameroonians, and each camp had 50 carriers for various duties. In addition to daily drilling, the Cameroonians were set to work to create and improve the camps and farms, carving elaborate villages out of the wilderness – villages complete with schools, churches, hospitals, stables, and administrative offices. The internment was nominal: people were free to move about as they pleased, and they engaged in a lively trade. Nonetheless, conditions were cramped, food shortages persisted throughout the internment, and illness was widespread.

Many internees had no wish to return to Cameroon. Others went to great lengths to escape from the island, including some who had ended up in Fernando Po more or less by accident (e.g. after working on Sierra Leonan ships which anchored at Santa Isabel), and were unable to return home. Some escaped by canoe, rowing their way across to Limbe in Cameroon, where they obtained passage to their homes. But thousands of Cameroonians spent several years in close contact with Europeans in a social setting organized along German lines. Many learned to read and write. More than a quarter were baptized, and thousands more were registered as Christian ‘learners’. For five-odd years they lived in a multi-cultural community under European leadership where social stratification and social mobility were based on criteria fundamentally different from the age-old structures pertaining at home. After their repatriation in 1919, the returned soldiers contested both traditional and British authority. Well into the 1930s, the British feared that slumbering German loyalties were strong enough to pose a military threat to the British and French presence in Cameroon.

The story of the internment of the Cameroonian soldiers presented here is based on archive sources in Britain, Germany and Cameroon, as well as on the few published accounts written by contemporary observers.


Jakob Zollmann, Unlikely Disputes of Empires. Portugal, Germany, and Ovamboland’s World War I

My paper aims at presenting the perspectives on World War I from one of its hitherto under-researched fronts: Ovamboland in present-day northern Namibia and southern Angola. The region was cut in 1886 by a colonial border agreement between Portugal and Germany. Life on this ‘frontier’, however, was barely affected by the ‘paper partition’. Only two decades later the colonial powers attempted to establish some form of authority in the area. While Portugal erected several minor border posts along Angola’s southern edge, the authoroties of German Southwest Africa (GSWA) maintained none in Ovamboland. They were satisfied by the conclusion of several ‘protection treaties’ with local authorities. Factual power rested with the heads of the Ovambo-kingdoms. Dramatic changes occurred, however, when World War I reached the area. A misinterpretation of the presence of military personnel on both sides of the border in late 1914 (based on decade-old mistrust between the colonial authorities) led to German border incursions. The Ovamboland-border was an unlikely theatre of war for European troops in African. It was strategically irrelevant as it was too distant from any seaports or important economic centres. And yet, German troops, concerned about the preservation and integrity of GSWA and eager to retaliate previous Portuguese ‘wrong-doings’, destroyed the Portuguese forts in October and December 1914, among them ‘Naulila’. Following the battle of Naulila, Ovambo polities rose against the Portuguese and forced their retreat. Only in August 1915, after the German defeat in GSWA and with British support, the area became ‘pacified’ by Portuguese expeditionary forces sent from Lisbon. ‘Peace’ came only as a result of total destruction of African polities due to famine and military defeat. Later, the border was demarcated between South African and Portuguese authorities. It remains a political and economic burden for the people of Ovamboland until today. Much to the surprise of the Germans, the Portuguese government laid claims against Germany in 1920 and demanded the payment of damages according to the reparation-provisions of the Treaty of Versailles. The ensuing arbitration procedure involved not only lawyers but also witnesses like soldiers, civil servants, merchants, and missionaries. It lasted until 1933 and opened up a legal perspective on European and African warfare in Angola relating to topics such as memory, occupation, resistance, espionage and collaboration unheard of before.

Given this history, my proposal aims at presenting the World War in Ovamboland (1914-1915) and the ensuing arbitration (1920-1933), which crystallises several topics of (colonial) historiography that have been recently debated:

First, there is the apparent military and political weakness of the colonial authorities in the area. The centre-periphery paradigm became central for this policy as long as there was no necessity to enforce colonial rules. This paradigm served as a colonial justification of the (political) irrelevance of the area. The way, World War I was fought in Ovamboland proves the dominance of African actors (inside and outside the colonial military).

Second, it can be shown that the arbitration resulted in competing accounts of memories and expectations about ‘right’ and ‘wrong’. Facts on the African ground, colonial history, and competing (colonial) historiographies of Portuguese and German origin were more important during the arbitration than legal aspects or any precedents.

Third, the arbitral decision resulting from the Portuguese claims became one of the landmark decisions in Public International Law. The ‘proportionality of reprisals’ is by now an undisputed principle of International Law. The African case during World War I which gave rise to the Portuguese assertions about unproportional German violence clearly shows that legal sources taken together with their political and social context can shed light on different aspects of the history and memory of World War I in Africa and beyond.


Javier Lion Bustillo, Title: “Banwagoning for nothing? Spain, Morocco and the Great War”

After the fall of the Spanish empire in 1898, Madrid had to reassess its foreign policy. Over the previous years, its main objective had been the maintenance of the existing status quo in a time of both domestic and international weakness. In the unstable international system of the beginning of the XX century, Spain could try to guarantee is territorial integrity (in the Peninsula and other possessions like the Canary Islands, Ceuta, Melilla…) through strictly defensive measures. But an alternative course of action could be to expand its possessions in Northern Morocco in order to avoid the threatening presence of other powers in the neighbouring area. This expansion was popular among certain social groups, but it was extremely controversial among the working class and the labour movement.

During the first years of the XX century, Spain actually developed a growing involvement in Northern Morocco which led to the establishment of a protectorate. But it was not satisfied with this result and demanded the inclusion of Tangier in the area under Spanish rule. In fact, the beginning of the Great War constituted an extremely favourable framework for revisionist powers in order to alter the status quo. According to offensive neorealist theory, every state wants to maximize its relative power, taking advantage of the situations when the benefits outweigh the costs; from this perspective, states will try to balance the hegemon. For defensive realism, bandwagoning can be justified to avoid an attack by a powerful enemy or share the spoils of victory, but it is not the preferred strategy of the states. For its part, Randall Schweller considers that bandwagoning can be a better alternative for revisionist states which are lured to the winning side by the promise of future rewards, underlying its positive effects.

Our research hypothesis is that Spain was a revisionist power in Northern Morocco during the years of the Great War, seeking territorial expansion. Its strategy vis-à-vis the war was aimed at attaining this objective, but it was constrained by several factors:

–       The Moroccan resistance to this expansion.

–       The context of the international system in which some countries (especially France and Germany) also maintained territorial ambitions in Morocco.

–       The impact of domestic politics, in a moment of great social division and lack of legitimacy of the political system. Conservative forces tended to provide support to Germany, whereas the liberals preferred an allied victory, and the labour movement rejected any military involvement in Morocco.

–       Spain had shown a high degree of military weakness in Morocco, which raised doubts about any major role of Spain in world politics.

These constraints led to a cautious approach vis-à-vis the Great War, rejecting an alliance with Germany due to several factors (geographic position, domestic politics…). On the contrary, Madrid chose a moderate bandwagoning strategy. In this sense, in spite of its supposed neutrality, Spain did its best to contribute to the allied war effort with the hope of receiving some territorial rewards in Northern Morocco. The problem was that such compensations should be made at the expense of France and Paris was not prone to accept a weakening of its position in Morocco.

The Spanish government made a last effort to attain something from its cooperation. This was the aim of the suggestion made in 1917, according to which Spain could further its involvement in the Great War in return of a territorial expansion in Morocco. Nevertheless, the Allies rejected this possibility. In consequence, at the end of the Great War Spain did not receive any satisfaction to its demands.

In conclusion, Spain chose a wrong strategy, given the fact that its sacrifices were not rewarded by France and the United Kingdom. We also contend that bandwagoning in the hope of receiving some side payments from the leading powers is an extremely dangerous strategy, in which a weak power runs the risk of making some efforts in return for nothing. At the same time, the explanations provided by the realist theory underestimate the importance of some factors like geography or domestic politics in order to assess the reasons behind alliances.


João Moreira Tavares, Memórias de Guerra no Arquivo Histórico Militar: África (1914-1918)

A 1ª Guerra Mundial, ou como durante muitos anos foi (e ainda é) denominada: a Grande Guerra, constitui um dos principais acontecimentos do século XX. Pelo seu prolongar no tempo, pelo número de povos envolvidos, pela sua extensão a todo o mundo, pela nova forma de fazer a guerra e como esta causou baixas e destruição nunca antes vistas e pelas suas repercussões muito para além do campo político-militar.

Portugal numa posição inicial de não neutralidade nem de beligerância cedo, porém, se viu na contingência de mobilizar tropas para defesa das suas duas mais importantes colónias: Angola e Moçambique. Incidentes fronteiriços ocorridos com forças alemãs a isso o obrigaram. Em Setembro de 1914 partiram as primeiras tropas para ambas as colónias. Logo seguidas em Outubro de um novo contingente para reforço da força destacada para Moçambique e em Novembro de um batalhão da Marinha para reforço da defesa de Angola, onde os confrontos se sucediam no Sul do território. Nesta contenda não declarada, só oficializada a partir de 9 de Março de 1916 quando a Alemanha declarou guerra a Portugal, um pouco mais de 49 000 homens combateram, nos quais se incluíram 16 278 africanos. Destes 5 621 morreram. Um maior número de mortos do que a participação portuguesa na frente europeia, embora o grau de intensidade dos combates não tenha comparação com o registado na Flandres, só explicado pela improvisação verificada quer na preparação das tropas, quer na condução das operações militares em territórios com um terreno e clima adversos, quase desprovidos de recursos e vias de comunicação que permitissem sustentar as forças em operações e percorrer a sua grande extensão, várias vezes superior à da metrópole e dela distanciados por milhares de quilómetros.

Com as atenções focadas na frente europeia, o principal Teatro de Operações onde tudo começou e se decidiu, com o passar dos anos, acabou por se registar um esquecimento do esforço realizado por Portugal na frente africana, só, pontualmente, quebrado por algumas memórias, alguns trabalhos em obras colectivas e estudos, mas sempre em muito menor número dos existentes sobre o Corpo Expedicionário Português (CEP) enviado para a Flandres. Esta carência de testemunhos é talvez justificada pela “escassez” das fontes quando comparadas com o “enorme” fundo do CEP, mas tal não deve servir de justificação para o desinteresse verificado, pois as fontes existem, são diversificadas e a sua relevância é incontestável e afinal a defesa da manutenção das colónias africanas foi uma das principais razões para a entrada de Portugal na guerra.

A presente comunicação centra a sua atenção no conjunto de documentos alusivo à presença militar portuguesa em África no período da 1ª Guerra Mundial que integra o acervo do Arquivo Histórico Militar (AHM), maioritariamente reunido na denominada 2ª Divisão, grupo de fundos documentais que integra a 2ª, 7ª e 10ª Secções constituídas com documentação, respectivamente, referente a Angola, Moçambique e ao Ultramar, mas que se estende também a outros fundos documentais que importa divulgar e valorizar, como por exemplo o vasto e diversificado espólio iconográfico.

Com esta iniciativa pretende-se aproximar os investigadores das fontes documentais, contribuindo, desse modo, para o aparecimento de novos trabalhos e interpretações no âmbito da História militar nacional. São múltiplas as temáticas a explorar e inúmeros os caminhos a seguir. Desde o lado mais humano da guerra, composto pelo quotidiano das tropas ou pelo drama vivido pelos prisioneiros civis alemães internados em campos de reclusão ou, ainda, pelo papel dos indígenas nas operações; passando pelo plano estritamente militar, como a organização da defesa, a instrução, armamento, equipamento e envio das tropas, a condução das operações contra os alemães e populações sublevadas até ao campo político e das relações internacionais em que se destaca a aliança luso-britânica e sua importância no conflito.

Cabe aos investigadores resgatar essas memórias de guerra e é esse o repto lançado a todos aqueles que queiram construir essa ponte entre o passado e o presente, não só com um objectivo meramente memorialista, mas sobretudo para aprofundar o nosso conhecimento sobre acontecimentos do passado ainda, por vezes, tão pouco conhecidos ou mal esclarecidos.


Joe Lunn, Marching to a Distant Drummer:  The Enduring Legacy of Senegalese Military Service during the First World War

As he lay dying in 1984, Ousmane Diagne’s mind returned to the seminal experience of his youth, if not his entire life—his service in the French Army during the First World War.  A former Senegalese sergeant from Dakar, one of nearly 200,000 West Africans recruited by the French between 1914 and 1918, and a surviving combatant of both the Western Front and Thessaloniki, his final words were not words at all, but the barely audible tune to a military march he hummed that had accompanied him on his journey to these distant places so long ago.

Focusing on the life histories of 25 First World War West African veterans, their family members and descendants spanning four generations, as well as drawing on an array of other veterans’ oral histories, written archival and published materials, this paper, which summarizes the findings from the concluding chapter of my forthcoming book, African Voices from the Great War:  An Anthology of Senegalese Soldiers’ Life Histories, assesses the enduring legacy of the soldiers’ service overseas during the twentieth century.

Viewed from both macro and micro perspectives, this interpretation explores the contradictory rationales employed by the French nation state to appropriate both the African soldiers’ service and their lives before and during the war, while alternately justifying, glorifying, and minimizing their sacrifice thereafter; the fashion in which the most potent symbol of First World War European nationalist mythology—the myth of the war experience—continued to be embraced and honored after 1960  by the post-colonial Senegalese state eager to assert its own national legitimacy; and how four generations of postwar African activists invoked the collective memory of the veteran’s sacrifices trying to secure a wide ranging assortment of political, economic, and social reforms, both at home and in Europe.  On a more personal level, it also examines the lives of many of the soldiers’ descendants, showing the individual variation and generational evolution in their perspectives about how their fates–and those of their families–were influenced by the military service of their ancestors.  And, perhaps most significantly, it illuminates more fully than ever before how the subsequent  lives of surviving West African veterans were, like Ousmane Diagne, affected until the end of their days by their wartime experience.

This piece concludes that the fiery barrages of deadly high explosives that bathed the West African soldiers moving across No Man’s Land in light, cast a lasting shadow throughout the rest of the twentieth century.  Like the trenches themselves, this image became embedded in the collective consciousness of Africans and Europeans alike, and appropriated by successive generations according to their own changing historical situations and circumstances, continues to endure.


Joe Lunn, Survival of the Fittest during the First World War: Herbert Spencer, the French Army, and the Development of La force noire, 1890-1920

In La force noire, his influential feasibility study of 1910 about recruiting West African soldiers to defend France in the event of a World War, Colonel Charles Mangin sought intellectual validation for his ideas by invoking Herbert Spencer:  “the philosopher…who had conducted the most profound study of the organization of human societies and their development in history.”  Citing Spencer’s Principles of Sociology, Mangin embraced the Englishman’s theoretical construct of “progressive evolution” and contended that a dichotomy existed between as yet “primitive” but “militant” societies, and their more highly evolved “industrial” counterparts.[i]  Referring to the “warrior instincts that remain extremely powerful in primitive races,” Mangin concluded that West Africans possessed exactly those attributes that made them ideal for use as “shock troops” by the French in the event of a European war.

Mangin’s scheme for expanding recruitment in West Africa for service overseas was not new; indeed, it had been advocated by a series of French Colonial Army officers–including Louis Archinard, Henri de Lacroix, Charles Perreaux, and Marie Audéoud—prior to 1910.  His explicit linking of this scheme to Spencer’s race theories, however, and their subsequent incorporation into the military organization, language instruction, and tactical doctrine of the Colonial Army between 1914 and 1918, offers an explicit glimpse of the Englishman’s institutional influence in France.  More broadly, it also provides an insight into the significance of Spencer’s ideas for French imperialists, as well as the tragic human consequences of linking race theory to military doctrine during First World War.


Mahon Murphy, Mutilation for a bounty? Britain and German West Africa in the First World War

Recent studies on prisoners of war and civilian internees in Europe during the First World War have focused on violence, mismanagement of camps and the use of forced labour.[8] With regard to the European theatre the idea of a “liberal tradition of captivity”[9] strictly adhered to under the conditions of The Hague Treaty in contrast to the modern mechanised form of combat has been comprehensibly challenged. However, does this hold true for the theatres of war outside Europe?

In contribution to the study if the war in Africa this paper will address three issues; Firstly it will focus on the colonialists themselves and look at how violence against German captives was used by the German government as a propaganda tool to counteract the various atrocity stories that were connected to abuses of civilians in German occupied Belgium and France. The focus of attention will be on German West Africa (The Cameroons and Togoland) during the war and, the side show within a side show, the British occupation of Duala, Victoria, Lome and other coastal towns in the colonies. For Germany, perceived mistreatment of Europeans and atrocities against them in the colonies was hoped to provide ammunition in the propaganda war and would ultimately find its clearest expression in connection to post war Black Shame on the Rhine propaganda.

Secondly I will also link the African theatre to the European front through the use of West Africa as a source for the accusations of barbarous practices of colonial troops.  An illustrative case study of the murder of two Germans in Spanish Guinea by British levies[10] will show that British initiatives in rewarding troops helped fuel German propaganda. Official German propaganda did not concentrate on the colonial sphere, but utilised the image of the cruelty of Entente colonial troops fighting on the Western Front. Probably the most important propaganda document issued by the German government, Employment, Contrary to International Law, of Coloured Troops on the Western Front Upon the European Arena of War by England and France, relates solely to cases of brutality by colonial troops against German soldiers on the Western Front.[11] As Horne and Kramer, point out comparisons were made between the “foul deeds” of the Belgian population and the Herero of South West Africa to justify reprisals against Belgian civilians.[12] The image of barbarity in Europe stemmed from the pre-war colonial theatre. Colonial imagery “intruded into the substance of the ‘atrocity’ question.”[13] I will show how German colonialists through their own propaganda efforts sought to link the existing Extra-European theatre to the bigger picture of the war in Europe.

Finally, while bearing in mind the greater propaganda impact of French run prison camps on this narrative, the focus on British occupied Cameroon will give some insights into British colonial strategy and how it was viewed through German eyes during the war. Through re-appraising British involvement in the campaign, I will explain some of the broader diplomatic issues in relation to waging war in the extra-European world. These are: the strategic objectives of the British Empire in the war, the hiring of Levies, and German attempts to exploit this for propaganda purposes. This paper will broaden our understanding of the First World War as a truly global conflict and not one restricted to Europe. It also hopes to integrate this campaign into the strategic aims of the war as a whole thereby displacing the notion that the First World War was “an aggregation of regional conflicts.”[14] Events in Africa during the war had a vital impact on Europe and vice versa.


Marisa Fernandes, A chegada tardia da Alemanha a África nos finais do século XIX: Da hesitação de Bismarck à Weltpolitik de Guilherme II e ao interesse pelo espaço colonial português

Esta comunicação tem como principal objectivo demonstrar de que modo é que a chegada tardia da Alemanha à corrida pela posse de colónias em África – num momento em que os espaços de menor interesse eram os únicos que ainda se encontravam disponíveis – foi condicionada pela hesitação e desinteresse inicial de Otto Von Bismarck e, consequentemente, como é que a actuação da Alemanha neste plano já com Guilherme II se tornou mais competitiva e agressiva – envolvendo mesmo o interesse pelas colónias portuguesas – e evolui até à I Guerra Mundial.

O espaço geopolítico de acção da Alemanha unificada era por excelência o espaço europeu, o que justificava a habilidosa e complexa política de construção de alianças estabelecida por Bismarck – de forma a permitir à Alemanha assumir na Europa o papel de árbitro diplomático – que hesitava, assim, em mostrar-se defensor da ideia de construção de um império colonial alemão. No entanto, esta hesitação inicial de Bismarck começou a desaparecer em virtude do crescente desenvolvimento económico e industrial da Alemanha, que começava a justificar a necessidade de encontrar novos mercados para a exportação de produtos; em 1882, verificou-se o surgimento da Deutscher Kolonialverein [Associação Colonial Alemã], a que se seguiu em 1884 a criação da Gesellschaft für Deutsche Kolonisation [Sociedade para a Colonização Alemã] e a realização da Conferência de Berlim, onde a Alemanha procuraria garantir as regras internacionais que tornariam possível a sua política de expansão colonial em África. É também nesse mesmo ano que se verifica a ocupação alemã da actual Namíbia, onde alguns anos depois ocorreria o primeiro genocídio do século XX – e surgiriam as raízes coloniais do Nacional-Socialismo (Erichsen & Olusoga, 2010) – , como resultado da iniciativa do comerciante de tabaco Adolf Lüderitz (1834-1886).

Ainda assim, o factor decisivo para a política colonial alemã surgiu com a adopção de uma Weltpolitik [política mundial], uma nova Politica Externa, por Guilherme II -logo após a apresentada demissão de Bismarck (1890)- destinada a explorar igualmente as possibilidades económicas para além da Europa, a fim de determinar quais as outras regiões que poderiam responder às necessidades geopolíticas de uma expansão continental e marítima do Reich e contribuir para que a Alemanha conquistasse ein Platz an der Sonne [um lugar ao Sol]. E, neste sentido, o imperialismo surgia associado ao programa de construção naval, pois para Guilherme II o futuro estava no Mar: «poder imperial significava poder marítimo e o poder marítimo e o poder imperial dependiam um do outro de tal maneira que não poderiam existir um sem o outro» (Fischer, 2007:148 e 149). Com efeito, a Inglaterra constituía um exemplo a seguir para o Kaiser, tanto por ter conquistado a sua hegemonia comercial, como por ser detentora de um grande império colonial e possuir uma frota capaz de garantir a segurança e defesa dos seus interesses no mundo.

Deste modo, e destinando-se: a garantir a neutralidade alemã, a conseguir a retirada do apoio alemão às Repúblicas Boers e a assegurar a redução do seu programa de rearmamento naval, estabeleceram-se acordos secretos entre a Inglaterra e a Alemanha relacionados com o destino das colónias portuguesas e o problema da dívida externa portuguesa. Da parte alemã existiam já episódios de pressão sobre Angola e Moçambique, com consideráveis recursos energéticos essenciais à industrialização, reflectindo as ambições de alargamento territorial da Alemanha a áreas contíguas àquelas que já possuía – em particular a Namíbia e a Tanzânia -.

Paralelamente à sucessivamente adiada publicação dos acordos secretos anglo-germânicos de 1898 e à revisão de 1913 – pois a Alemanha não estava interessada na sua divulgação -, continuaram a verificar-se iniciativas privadas alemãs com apoio imperial de penetração no espaço colonial africano de Portugal. Este crescente espírito de competição – com especial incidência na questão colonial e naval, que influía directamente com a Inglaterra enquanto rainha dos mares -, acentuado pela política de Guilherme II que conduzira à destruição das alianças construídas por Bismarck -, manter-se-ia até ao eclodir da I Guerra Mundial, após a qual a Alemanha perderia todas as suas colónias.


Mark Bolak Funteh, Magic and War in Cameroon: A preparatory and sustaining ingredient at the Battle Front during the First World War

War and peace those contrary conditions of mankind, are however alike in one important characteristic, that both are aspects of a society’s relations with other societies. They are linked, too, by an intermediate zone in which the tension caused by the interaction of societies is mitigated towards one end of the scale of their relations by peaceful tendencies while towards the other end it is exacerbated by influences aggressive to peace. The acquisition of new ammunitions, sophisticated weapons, increase in army population, negotiation for and establishment of new allies have been the several scholarly popular explanations on the constant declaration and sustenance of war in most societies. But in recent times, new knowledge about the motivation behind the occurrence, participation and prolonging of war in most African societies has been sought. This has led to a school which propounds magic as a war driving factor. This essay falls in line with this approach. In Cameroon, war frequently occurred, either as inter-tribal warfare or colonial resistance, and their participation in the First World War was considered the continuation of a familiar game. At the break of the war in 1914, Cameroon was a German colony sandwiched between French and British colonies. So, when the war transcended European boundaries to include the colonies, the Allied crossed the colonial boundaries to clash with the Germans on a series of grounds in Cameroon. Consequently, the Africans who had been recruited and trained as colonial soldiers were directly implicated to defend the interest of their masters. While the Germans were fighting with over 1,550 African soldiers, the British and French had about 7,733.  Among the various strategies each of these powers used to recruit fighters, the Germans made use of the Church. War veterans often testified the possession of an inspiring element that drove them to and kept their interest at “confidence” during war situations, and that the heroism of the African solder was qualified in terms of his mystical connotation. So, before and during the war, they depended so much on the utilisation of mysterious means to prepare and to fight. This was in pursued and sustenance of victory over an enemy. This essay, written on the bases of published, archival and oral data, examines the mechanism of magic employed by Cameroon combatants in addressing issues related to war, that is, prior to and for the duration of the First World War. It argues that the presence and practice of magic encouraged the people to go to war, sustained their interest and confidence at war.


Olajompo Akinyeye, West Africa and the First World War

The First World War as an epochal event affected every part of the world. West Africa as parts of the colonial enclaves of most of the combatant European states was not an exception. However, all references to the war in relation to West Africa concentrate on the uses of the resources of the sub region to support the war efforts of their colonial masters and the use of the manpower for the area for combatant duties in East Africa and the Western front. Only the military operations in Togoland and Cameroon are discussed as the combatant involvement of West Africa in the War. The wrong impression thus given is that West Africa had no role to play in the strategic maneuvers of the war. A sober look at the sources will however, show that West Africa played a pivotal role in the allies’ strategic moves in the war. Germany’s hope for victory was predicated on her ability for a quick war because she knew that she lacked the resources fro a prolonged struggle. The allies on the other hand were aware of Germany’s weakness and knew that if they could prolong the war Germany would be exhausted and therefore counted on their ability to call on the vast resources of their colonial empires and international trade to task German resilience. A vital maneoure of the war therefore centered on how to shorten the war on the side of Germany and how to prolong the war by the allies. To shorten the war, Germany hoped to prevent the allies from being able to trade and also calling on resources from their colonies. To be able to do this, Germany planned to resort to submarine warfare. To avoid German sub marine traps the allies hoped to resort to the diversion of their trade to the south Atlantic. Naval bases and defended ports were established at strategic points on the south Atlantic to this effect. West Africa’s strategic location on the South Atlantic placed her in vantage position to serve the allies’ war efforts in this regard. The allies had envisaged this and made serious plans to this effect since the last quarter of the 19th century. These plans were put into effect on the outbreak of the war with the German resort to submarine warfare. This aspect of West Africa’s involvement in the war which was not any less important during the war had largely been ignored in the treatment of the war. This paper seeks to fill this yarning gap.

It will discuss the various strategic appraisals made by the leading imperial powers of Britain about the changing face of warfare in the late 19th century and their decision to evolve a counter strategy to the  to the U boat should Germany resort to that mode of warfare and the role allotted to West Africa in the envisaged war strategy. It will then examine the various processes through which the leading imperial powers of West Africa (Britain and France) established their naval bases and defended ports in West Africa which helped them during the First World War and which was also to be the case during the Second World War. It will focus attention on the financial and material contributions of the West Africa colonies to the efforts of both the French and the British to build the naval bases and defended ports. The work will then show the importance of this strategic contribution of West Africa to the war efforts of the British and the French during the war.

The work will depend on archival materials obtained from archives in Britain, France and the West Afrcan colonies. This will be augmented with secondary sources from existing texts on the subject such as books, journals and periodicals. It is hoped tht findings of the article will be an original contribution that will fill an obvious gap about the knowledge of the role of West Africa in the First World War.

Oluranti Afowowe, Crystalizing the Socio-Military Consequences of the Nigerian Regiment’s Involvement in German East Africa Battles (1916- 1918): Issues and Challenges for Nigerian Developmental Initiatives in the 21st Century

The extant literature on Nigerian Military formation (The Queen’s Own Nigeria regiment) engagements in the 1st World War especially by military historians and military actors of the monumental epoch fairly documented battles. These literatures were majorly concerned with rudimentary documentation of military battles, operational techniques and military campaign outcomes. Limited efforts were made by these studies to find a synergy between the military campaigns of the epoch and the excruciating developmental challenges of contemporary African states.

True, wars, imperial dominations, colonialism and even neo-colonialism were engendered by inter-dependency of states. For instance, it has been established that Africa was colonized by Europeans for three generic reasons: first, as source of raw materials for European industries; second, as source of market for European manufactured goods; and lastly as a field of investment of European surplus values. In a nutshell, colonialism became an attractive option for Europeans as a result of inability of the European economy to be self-sustaining. Military power is a congruent part of politics. This is why the history of state formation is almost invariably a history of military adventures.

This study posits that the historical dynamics of the founding of Nigerian military formation and the subsequent involvement in the 1st World War through the British military campaigns in the then German East Africa (1916-1918) defined the essential characters, essence and relational complexities of the post- colonial Nigerian military institutions with far reaching consequences for developmental initiatives of the Nigerian state. The basic thesis of this study is that the ethnic configurations of the Queen Own Nigerian Regiment and ‘de-personalizing’ training of indigenous Nigerian recruits created a foundation of a military consisting of officers and men that were relatively aloof to nationalistic objectives and desires. The military was created to be subservient to external interests and objectives that most often undermine collective Nigerian state interests.

This very attribute of the Nigerian military has roots in the historical circumstances of 1st World War. This defining character of the military in Nigeria has very dare consequences for military discipline, Nigerian state capacity for cross-cultural consensus building mechanism and ultimately socio-political dislocation that breeds military adventurism, terrorism (manifesting as Boko-Haram in Nigeria) and political opportunism (ethnic politics) that characterized post-colonial Nigeria.

This study further posited that the human cost of the 1st World War military campaign for Nigeria was enormous for developmental initiatives of the Nigerian state. The study contended that the indigenous recruits were majorly the most energetic, enlightened and urbanized emerging local elite that could have provided the impetus and stimuli for socio-economic development of the then newly formed Nigerian state which was made impossible by the 1st World War military campaign.

This study concluded on the note that the 1st World War military campaign provided the template for the subsequent engagement of the Nigerian military formation in the 2nd World War military campaign efforts of the British colonial government which ironically later provided the impetus for Nigerian political independence in 1960.


Ruth Ginio and Ben Gurion, African Participation in World War I and the Emergence of a Military Colonial Policy in French West Africa

During the nineteenth century, the French expanded their possession over what would become the two federations of French West and Equatorial Africa. From an early stage, the French realized that they needed to recruit Africans in order to conquer new territories and establish their rule in them. However, in 1910, General (then Lieutenant-Colonel) Charles Mangin wrote his book La Force noire, in which he suggested taking a step further and using the soldiers’ so-called warrior instincts to protect not only the empire but also the motherland. Indeed, over 170,000 African soldiers served on European soil in the ranks of the French army during World War I. 30,000 of them perished. Their recruitment to protect the Motherland and their service during the war was in fact the beginning of a long story which has still not ended.

The recruitment of colonial subjects to protect the Motherland was unique to France. It affected the colonial relations between France and its African subjects because it turned colonial subjects into soldiers, who since the French Revolution were entitled, at least theoretically, to citizenship rights. African soldiers did not gain citizenship rights they did receive a special status which accorded them certain privileges. Their service in World War I was the beginning of complex relations between them and French soldiers and commanders, relations that included on the one hand – brotherhood in arms, a sense of shared destiny, and even trust and affection, and on the other hand – rage and frustration in face of continuing discrimination and broken promises. These complex relations did not end with the end of French colonial rule in Africa and in fact continue to this day.

The recruitment of Africans to fight in the trenches of World War I also enforced the military influence on colonial policies in French West Africa at a time when the army was gradually losing control on this territory following the transfer from military to civilian rule in most of the colonies of the federation. The military authorities often attempted to advance a competing policy to that of the colonial administration, especially in areas relating to African soldiers and veterans. While the army aimed to maintain the loyalty of African soldiers and veterans and wished to privilege them over the rest of the population, the colonial administration was mainly concerned by ex-soldiers’ disobedience and made efforts to integrate them as quickly as possible to the colonized society.

Up until now research about World War I and French West Africa concentrated mainly on the experiences of African soldiers in Europe – their difficulties in battle, their encounters with French civilians, and the influence of their presence on racial ideas. Several studies also dealt with the French controversial decision to employ Africans as part of the Allied occupation forces in the Rhineland after the war and the consequences of this decision. However, little had been written on the influence of African service in the war on the colonial policy in FWA in the subsequent years and on the reinforcement of the army as a substantial colonial actor after the war.

The aim of my paper is, thus, to examine the ways in which African participation in the war influenced the military colonial policy in FWA in three main areas:

  1. The development of a recruitment policy influenced by basic assumptions about the influence of the civilizing mission on the recruits’ military potential.
  2. The cultivation of elite among the recruits through education, professional training, and even the selection of Africans as officers.
  3. The commemoration of African soldiers who perished in World War I in a way that would enable the distribution of colonial propaganda in the colonies, in France and in the international arena.

By discussing these three areas I shall examine the differences between the military policy and that of the colonial administration and the influence of World War I on the emergence of the army as a force that influenced colonial policy in French West Africa.


Walter Gam Nkwi, The First World War Soldiers as agents of Social Change in Africa: The Case of Bamenda Grassfields of Northwest Cameroon

When the First World War erupted in 1914, Africa was largely a colonial backwater and most Africans were still considered in European historiography as “hewers of wood”. Africa was also considered as natural resource reservoir for European growing industry which had reached its watershed in 1870 with the unifications of Germany and Italy. European powers were soon to realised that the recruitment of African soldiers into the war was inevitable. This was done with unforeseen ramifications. The literature on the First World War in Africa suggests that it leans more to the political consequences of the war and there is an advertent gloss over the cream of the soldiers who fought the war both in their areas of origin and on European states itself. The other gap that appears in the literature shows a near neglect of the introduction of modernity into African territories with the soldiers being one of the agents who linked this modernity and further placed Africa at the centre of the globe by consuming modernity and exporting more raw materials. Consequently, the remotest parts of Africa were linked to the centre with soldiers playing a crucial role. That notwithstanding, their returned from the war front also had some disruptive effects in the social fabric of their societies.

This paper examines the role of African ex-soldiers in the First World War as agents of social and cultural change taking the Bamenda Grassfields of Northwest Cameroon as a case study. It argues that these category of people although recruited as people in the lowest rung of the society and from the remotest parts of Africa, rose to be those who were responsible for the social and cultural transformation which this sub-region witnessed in the domains of sanitary masters, catechists, clerks, messengers, policemen, customs, radios or gramophones, new dressing habits just to name but a few. Ex-soldiers commanded respectability amongst their peers and enjoyed enhanced prestige as people who have gone far and wide and have reached the ends of the world while performing heroic acts. It further argues that one of the most crucial effects of the Africans participation in the War was the transformation of colonial territories and bringing them to ‘global modernity’. They were those who brought new forms of love making, terrorising and eloping with peoples’ women and royal wives as well. This role which was played by the African soldiers has escaped the attention of researchers over time and space although a plethora of literature exists on the First World War (WWI) this yawning gap remains.  The Bamenda Grassfields, Cameroon has not benefitted from such studies and will hopefully fill the gap.

Methodologically, this paper will use primary sources encapsulated in empirical/interviews with people who were implicated in the process and those who only witnessed. The gaps that will occur in the interview will be filled by making use of archival data collected from the archives found in Cameroon. From the multiplicity of methods and sources the paper concludes upfront that the impact of the activities of ex-soldiers was durable in depth. Archival and the life histories of the soldiers show that they were precursors of modernity in the sub region. Overall, the paper contends that the soldiers played the role of human agency in bringing the peripheral African areas to the center thus Africa was further ‘remotely global’ to use the phrase of Charles Piot.

[7] “RunCoCo: How to run a community collection online” http://runcoco.oucs.ox.ac.uk/1914/

[8] See Rachamimov, Alon, POWs and the Great War: Captivity on the Eastern Front (Berg, New York, 2002), Jones, Heather, Violence Against Prisoners of War: Britain, France and Germany, 1914-1920 (Cambridge University Press, Cambridge and New York, 2011), Stibbe, Matthew, British Civilian Internees in Germany (The Ruhleben Camp, 1914-18.

[9] Speed, Richard, Prisoners, Diplomats and the Great War (Greenwood, New York, 1990), p.152.

[10] Levies were locally recruited soldiers, spies and trackers. In the Cameroons most of the levies were hired among the Duala tribe.

[11] Issued by the German Foreign Office in mid-1915.

[12] Horne, John and Kramer, Alan, German Atrocities 1914: A History of Denial (Yale University Press, New Haven, 2001), p.135.

[13] Horne, Kramer, p.223.

[14] First World War studies (1947-5020), 1 (1), 2010, Strachan, Hew, The First World War as a Global War, p. 11.

[i] Ibid., 347, Herbert Spencer, Principles of  Sociology (New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1898).  Also see: Naoimi Beck, “The Diffusion of Spencerism and its Political Interpretations in France and Italy,” in Herbert Spencer: The Intellectual Legacy, Greta Jones and Robert Peel, eds. (London: The Galton Institute, 2003), 37-60.

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