The Suwo was the flagship of the Japanese expeditionary fleet during the Siege of Tsingtao.
(Photo: Wikimedia Commons)
The port of Tsingtao, located in the Shandong Province of eastern China had been built by the Germans in the late 19th century, and had become the main base of the German Navy’s East Asia Squadron. It was an important strategic area and was seen as a threat to British naval power in the Pacific theatre.
The Anglo-Japanese Alliance had been established in 1902, and it suited both nations to have Tsingtao transfer to Japanese control, as Japan also has aspirations in the area. Accordingly Japan declared war on Germany on 23rd August and soon after attacked the German garrison at Tsingtao, assisted by a small British force.
The attackers numbered nearly 25,000 troops compared to the garrison force of the Germans who could only muster around 3,600 troops for the battle.
The attack was a combined naval and infantry operation, thrown up against the heavily outnumbered German garrison who nevertheless were in a strong defensive posture, consisting of a network of trenches, fortified positions and artillery batteries.
The action escalated from a naval blockade established on 27th August to a siege that began on the 17th October and continued for three weeks with the Japanese attacks progressively intensifying during this time.
On 31st October the Germans were subject to a sustained artillery barrage that continued for a week and was followed by massed attacks of Japanese infantry on 6th November. On 7th November the Germans capitulated and what later became known as the “Siege of Tsingtau” was ended.
Japan had lost 236 soldiers in the battle compared to the German death toll of 199 killed in action. The surviving Germans were taken to prisoner of war camps in Japan, where they remained until the end of the war, finally being repatriated to Germany in 1920.